Consultation on Openness (Duty of Candour)

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has launched a consultation which sets out proposals for requiring NHS providers to increase transparency and admit when things go wrong with health care.

The contractual Duty of Candour in health care will be an enforceable duty on providers to be open and honest with patients or their families when things go wrong, ensuring they receive information about any investigations and encouraging the NHS to learn lessons.

The Government has committed to require openness and encourage organisations to support their staff to be open through a contractual mechanism. However, there are some key principles that we need to get right and we would like your views on our proposed mechanism.

In particular, the consultation asks you the best way of enforcing such a contractual duty and poses some key questions on the following areas:

  • what exactly should the Duty require the NHS to do?;
  • what should the penalties be for breaching the duty?;
  • should organisations have to make an annual ‘‘declaration of openness’’?; and
  • what support do patients and clinicians feel would help them act when they feel the NHS is not being open about an incident?

Enforcing this duty will be the responsibility of commissioners. These proposals are fundamentally reliant on commissioners to make them work. The Government is proposing to place the power to hold providers to account with the people who are most likely to learn of a failure to be open – the clinicians who treat people involved in a previous incident and the CCGs they belong to and who commission care on behalf of their populations. Therefore your views are vital.

The consultation on openness is available here on the Department of Health website

Responses to the consultation can be made via email to

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