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NHS contracts to include duty of transparency

NHS organisations will have to tell patients if their safety has been compromised

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 04 December 2012

The NHS Commissioning Board will be required to include a contractual duty of openness in all commissioning contracts from April 2013, the Department of Health has announced.

The aim of the new rules is to toughen transparency in NHS organisations and to increase patient confidence.

They will mean that NHS organisations, such as hospitals, will be required to tell patients if their safety has been compromised, and ensure that lessons are learned to prevent them from being repeated. Currently, although NHS organisations are currently expected to be open about mistakes, there is no contractual duty to hold them to account when this does not happen.

The change means that from April 2013, GPs commissioning NHS services will be able to use this contractual mechanism. While the NHS Commissioning Board will need to determine the final details, it is likely that if NHS organisations are not open with patients, their chief executives could have to apologise in writing to the patient and report the breach to the Care Quality Commission. Strict action plans to prevent the breach happening again could also be required with repeated contractual breaches leading to more stringent action.

Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: “Patients place great faith in the NHS organisations that treat them, and they in turn have a duty to be honest and open about every aspect of care they deliver. When mistakes are made, we want them acknowledged, patients informed and lessons to be learnt.

“The importance of an open culture cannot be underestimated. We expect that Robert Francis will make further recommendations on the duty of candour when the Mid Staffordshire Inquiry is published, and we are committed to taking whatever further action we think is needed as a result. But we cannot wait - creating this contractual duty of candour now ensures that NHS contracts for the next financial year will champion patients’ rights to basic honesty, as well as safe care.”

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