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Prosecution for lack of Duty of Candour

Posted on 24th September 2020 in Medical Negligence

Posted by

Simon Mansfield

Partner and Solicitor
Prosecution for lack of Duty of Candour

Healthcare professionals are committed to delivering good care to their patients. Their first principle is to “do no harm” and the majority of the millions of people using healthcare services in the UK today will have a good experience.

However in the course of medical treatment, unfortunately, sometimes, things do go wrong and when an individual is harmed as a result, healthcare providers have an obligation under the Duty of Candour (Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014: Regulation 20) to be “open and transparent” about what happened. 

The duty of candour regulation sets out requirements that healthcare providers must follow when things go wrong. This includes informing the patient and/or their family about the incident as soon as reasonably practicable, providing a truthful account about the incident, providing reasonable support and an apology. The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulates and inspects health and social care services in England and can prosecute for a breach of certain parts of the duty of candour regulation. In the tragic case highlighted in The Guardian’s article, University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust did not comply with their obligations under the statutory duty of candour, namely the Trust failed to provide a timely apology and full explanation regarding the events. The article states that “This is the first time CQC has prosecuted an NHS trust for failure to comply with the regulation concerning duty of candour”, highlighting the seriousness of the Trust’s breach.

We welcome this landmark CQC prosecution and hope that it reinforces the importance of healthcare providers stringently complying with the duty of candour. Not only should compliance provide patients and/or their families with an apology and a full, open, and transparent explanation, it is fundamental from a learning perspective to prevent mistakes and to improve patient safety in the future.


For further insight into the Duty of Candour and what we have learnt from previous investigations, please see our recent insight.

If you or a member of your family have suffered injuries as a result of substandard medical care, contact our experienced Clinical Negligence Team who are here to help.

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