Pharmacists will have a professional duty to inform patients when something has gone wrong in their care and apologise where the mistake has caused harm or distress, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has announced.
The regulator unveiled new requirements for pharmacists to adhere to a "duty of candour" yesterday (October 13), which will place a stronger emphasis on being "open and honest" with patients.
The duty will apply to all healthcare professionals in the UK – eight other regulators including the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI), the General Medical Council and the Nursing and Midwifery Council have also backed the principles – and comes as a response to the Francis report published last February.
The report uncovered serious breaches of care at Mid-Staffordshire Trust, and healthcare regulators, including the GPhC, vowed to learn from the failings.
GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said focusing on this duty of candour would strengthen its ongoing work to encourage an open culture among pharmacy professionals and help establish transparency as "the norm" in healthcare settings.
The duty of candour requires pharmacists to inform patients of mistakes in their care that could cause harm or distress and explain "fully" the short-term and long-term implications. Pharmacists should apologise for any harm caused and offer an appropriate remedy or support to "put matters right" wherever possible, according to a joint statement signed by a range of regulators including the GPhC and PSNI.
The duty also requires pharmacists to behave in an "open and honest" manner towards their colleagues, employers and the GPhC. They should agree to take part in reviews and investigations and raise concerns where necessary, rather than discouraging whistleblowing, the regulators said in their statement.
This is a professional duty in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but it could become a legal duty in Scotland. The Scottish government is due to open a consultation tomorrow (October 15) on introducing duty of candour legislation.
In April, pharmacy bodies warned that enforcing a duty of candour among health professionals could have the opposite effect unless dispensing errors were decriminalised.