Healthcare news

Department of Health invites submissions on 'duty of candour' for medics

Sir John O’Hara made a total of 96 recommendations in the hyponatraemia inquiry, including that a statutory duty of candour be introduced compelling medics to admit their mistakes. Picture by Mal McCann
Marie Louise McConville

THE Department of Health has invited public submissions on the introduction of a 'duty of candour' in health and social care.

A new statutory duty of candour was one of the key recommendations of the inquiry into hyponatraemia-related deaths of children in Northern Ireland.

The inquiry was set up to investigate the deaths of Adam Strain (4), Claire Roberts (9), Raychel Ferguson (9), 18-month-old Lucy Crawford and Conor Mitchell (15) between 1995 and 2003 at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children.

Hyponatraemia is caused by a shortage of sodium in the bloodstream and the inquiry examined whether fatal errors were made in the administration of intravenous fluids.

It found that four of the children's deaths were avoidable.

Sir John O'Hara QC, who headed the inquiry, also found there was an “indefensible” culture in which parents were misled by health professionals intent on “avoiding scrutiny” and protecting their own reputation.

The report made a total of 96 recommendations, including that a statutory duty of candour be introduced compelling medics to admit their mistakes.

The department said yesterday it has published specially commissioned research and a duty of candour 'work stream' has been set up "to encourage a culture of openness and examine the legislation that will be required".

Quintin Oliver, chair of the workstream, said the team would "develop detailed proposals to implement the inquiry's recommendations on candour".

"Before progressing to the next stage we are keen to engage with stakeholders and the general public and are now seeking written submissions to highlight any additional research or information that they feel is relevant," he said.

"To date, the research has been aimed at improving our understanding of how candour operates in other jurisdictions, as well as the legal and human rights issues relevant to a statutory duty of candour."

For further details see www.health-ni.gov.uk.

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