A new call for evidence launched by the government on April 16, 2024, aims to capture and consider views about how the duty of candour system is honoured, monitored and enforced in health and social care settings.

The duty of candour requires health and care providers to be open and honest when things go wrong. It means that patients and families have a right to receive explanations for what happened as soon as possible and a meaningful apology.

The current system has been in place for a decade. This review will look at how it is operating amid concerns that there is some inconsistency in how it is being applied.

Maria Caulfield, minister for mental health and women’s health strategy, said, “I spent twenty years working as a nurse in the NHS, and I know how important it is that health and care providers are open with patients and their loved ones – especially if something has gone wrong.

“I want to ensure that our system of duty of candour is kept up to date, so I urge anyone with views or experience to respond to the call for evidence to help inform our review, which will ensure that honesty and integrity remain at the heart of our health and social care services.”

The call for evidence will run for six weeks.

It follows a range of measures the government has announced to improve patient safety. In February, the department announced the rollout of Martha’s Rule to over 100 acute sites by March 2025. Martha’s Rule entitles patients and family members, who are concerned that their condition is deteriorating, to initiate a rapid review by someone outside of their initial care team.

The Department of Health and Social Care has also confirmed that the strengthening of death certificate safeguards will come into force in September 2024. Medical examiners will examine the cause of death in all cases that haven’t been referred to the coroner.

The review into duty of candour has gained widespread support from the health and care sectors, which see the review as an important way to ensure that healthcare providers are adhering to best practice.

Henrietta Hughes, patient safety commissioner, said, “I welcome the fact that duty of candour is being reviewed because it is important that people do not struggle to get information when something has gone wrong. Working with patients as partners is an opportunity for us to learn and improve.

“I would urge the public and clinicians to respond to this call for evidence.”