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Candour guidance: What is the professional duty of candour?

1. All healthcare professionals have a professional duty of candour – this is a professional responsibility to be open, honest and transparent with patients when things go wrong.

2. This professional duty of candour was agreed in October 2014 in a joint statement from eight regulators of healthcare professionals in the UK.[i]  This was in response to findings and recommendations from both the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Public Inquiry (the Francis Inquiry) into poor patient care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust in 2013 and the UK Government’s response to this Inquiry: Hard Truths: The Journey to Putting Patients First published in January 2014.

3. The General Optical Council’s Standards of Practice for Optometrists and Dispensing Opticians (standard 19) and Standards for Optical Students (standard 18) reflect this professional duty of candour.

Candour standard

4. Being candid should not be misunderstood as admitting liability or wrong doing. An apology or other step taken in accordance with this guidance does not of itself amount to an admission of negligence or a breach of statutory duty. The action taken, whether on behalf of yourself, your employer or another healthcare colleague is the right thing to do for the patient.

5. Being candid should not be confused with handling complaints. This guidance on candour applies whether or not a complaint has been made or a concern raised.

6. This professional duty of candour should not be confused with the contractual duty of candour or the statutory duty of candour. These are separate duties that apply to providers who have a contract to provide NHS care and organisations regulated by the Care Quality Commission. These duties are unlikely to apply to you as an individual.

7. This guidance should also not be confused with the GOC’s policy on Raising Concerns with the GOC (whistle blowing). It focuses on the conversation required with the patient when something has gone wrong. You will need to consider separately whether there is a requirement to take any further action in relation to raising concerns.


[i] General Chiropractic Council, General Dental Council, General Medical Council, General Pharmaceutical Council, General Osteopathic Council, Health and Care Professions Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council, Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland.

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