LONDON - Doctors and nurses in Britain must admit their mistakes and apologise to patients who are harmed or distressed, say new guidelines issued here.
The guidelines, intended for the staff of the publicly funded National Health Service (NHS), warn them that they must respect the dignity of patients, reported The Telegraph yesterday.
Doctors and nurses are usually reluctant to apologise because they fear admitting legal liability or making the situation worse.
Britain's Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt indicated the need for changing that mindset in January when he said that health-care professionals must start "saying sorry" to end a culture of defensiveness in the public health-care system.
Yesterday, Britain's General Medical Council, which sets professional and ethical conduct standards, told doctors: "You must be open and honest with patients if things go wrong. If a patient under your care has suffered harm or distress you must put matters right, if that is possible; offer an apology; explain fully and promptly what has happened and the likely short-term and long-term effects."
Separately, new guidelines from the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, also issued yesterday, said every patient in Britain should know which senior doctor is responsible for overseeing their entire care.
This follows recommendations from a public inquiry into systemic failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust where up to 1,200 may have died because of poor care.
The trust was found to have caused "appalling and unnecessary suffering" to hundreds of people, with some patients left lying in their own faeces for days or given the wrong medication, the Telegraph reported.
The daily quoted Mr Hunt, the Health Secretary, as saying: "Patients tell us that, too often, their care isn't joined up.
"That's why every patient should have a single responsible clinician whose job it is to help them with anything that goes wrong and make sure they get the care they need.
"This guidance will make that a reality - it has been developed by clinicians, for clinicians, and is a huge step forward for patient safety."