Saying sorry does not mean accepting liability for mistakes, the CQC tells GPs

19th March 2021 by NASGP

Saying sorry does not mean accepting liability for mistakes, the CQC tells GPs

The CQC has confirmed that apologies are not an admission of liability, Pulse reports.

In a new update to its ‘duty of candour’ rules, the regulator clarified that a GP’s apology ‘does not mean accepting liability’.

The CQC also cites a leaflet by NHS Resolution that says apologising will not affect indemnity cover.

Duty of candour was introduced in 2014 after the Mid-Staffs crisis, and introduced a new culture of communications between doctors and patients.

Complaints can often be a worry for GP locums, especially new starters, given some studies find that GP locums are more likely to face a complaint than colleagues.

Although there’s some evidence that locum doctors across sectors are both more likely to face complaints, and more likely to face negative perceptions, a recent review found that there was little empirical evidence to validate the gap in how locum and permanent doctors’ practice is perceived. A new NIHR study is currently underway to examine the quality of locum practice.

Dr Rob Hendry, medical director at Medical Protection, said: “Medical Protection supports open communication, and we encourage healthcare professionals to apologise when things have gone wrong. We have long advised members that an apology is not an admission of liability; rather, it is an acknowledgement that something has gone wrong and a way of expressing empathy. Providing an apology does not invalidate the right to request for assistance with Medical Protection.

“A timely apology aids the recovery process for all involved, and encourages learning and improvement. An open, learning culture at an organisational level is also needed, along with leadership that is firmly committed to the principles of the duty of candour so that clinicians feel supported and confident to admit errors, apologise and learn from mistakes.

“A range of learning resources are available free for Medical Protection members including Risk Prevention interactive workshops and webinars on how to manage communication and professional responsibilities after an adverse event, including offering an apology.”

NASGP partners with Medical Protection to offer regular locum-focused advice and risk management, and Medical Protection offers NASGP chambers members a discount on Medical Protection membership.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, chair of the NASGP, said: “When it comes to complaints, our approach at NASGP is always to take a systems-based approach rather than seek to blame individuals.

“This statement from the CQC is very welcome and will help empower locums to be able to move the process along towards finding solutions.”

NASGP chambers members get admin support when they face complaints. Find out more about how this works in a quick Q&A with Steve Shaw, the NASGP’s chambers development manager

"Thank you for many years of help and support in an increasingly difficult job as a sessional GP in the NHS."

Dr Bettina James

See the full list of features within our NASGP membership plans