The NHS Litigation Authority (NHS LA) for England and Wales has called on NHS Trusts to apologise to patients when mistakes are made, and has issued further guidance on the subject.
Saying sorry when things go wrong is vital for the patient, their families and carers, as well as to support learning and improve safety, says the NHS LA.
It goes on to explain that 50% of patients who have suffered harm as a result of their healthcare wanted an apology and explanation. Patients, their families and carers should receive a meaningful apology – one that is a sincere expression of sorrow or regret for the harm that has occurred.
The NHS LA has always encouraged Trusts to issue a verbal apology to patients as soon as staff are aware that an incident has occurred. A written apology, which clearly states the healthcare organisation is sorry for the suffering and distress resulting from the incident, must also be given.
Saying sorry is not an admission of legal liability, the NHS LA has explained; it is the right thing to do. Healthcare professionals should explain that new information may emerge as an investigation is undertaken, and that patients, their families and carers will be kept up to date with the progress of an investigation.
The Authority is encouraging all healthcare organisations to create an environment in which members of staff are encouraged to report patient safety incidents. It also says that staff should feel supported throughout the investigation process because they too may have been traumatised by being involved.
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