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Saying sorry

Saying sorry meaningfully when things go wrong is vital for

everyone involved in an incident, including the patient, their
family, carers, and the staff that care for them.

Advise / Resolve / Learn

Saying sorry is:
always the right thing to do
not an admission of liability
acknowledges that something could have gone better
the first step to learning from what happened and
preventing it recurring

Why? sorry. As part of an initial How?

apology it is best practice
Not only is it a moral and to provide the patient The way you say sorry is
right thing to do - it is also and their family with a just as important as saying
a statutory, regulatory, key contact wherever it. An apology should
and professional possible. demonstrate sincere
requirement. It can also regret that something
support learning and What if there is a has gone wrong and
improve patient safety. formal complaint or this includes recognised
claim? complications referred to
When? in the consent process.
The Compensation Act It should be confidential
As soon as possible
2006 states; An apology, and tailored to the
after you become aware
an offer of treatment individual patients needs.
something has gone
or other redress, shall
wrong you should seek Where possible you
not of itself amount
out the patient and or should say sorry in
to an admission of
their family and say sorry person and involve the
negligence or breach of
and acknowledge what right members of the
statutory duty. (source:
has happened and tell healthcare team. It should
Compensation Act 2006
them that you will find be heartfelt, sincere,
Chapter 29 page 3)
out more. Reassure them explain what you know so
that you will keep them In fact, delayed or poor far and what you will do to
informed. communication makes find out more.
it more likely that
Who? the patient will seek It is the starting point of
information in a different a longer conversation; as
Everyone can say sorry, over time this will lead
way such as complaining
but you may need to be to sharing information
or taking legal action.
supported to do so. You about what went
The existence of a formal
may need the backing of wrong, what you will
complaint or claim should
more senior people and do differently in the
never prevent or delay
staff may need training future. It is vital to avoid
you saying sorry.
but it should not stop acronyms and jargon in all
you from simply saying communications.
You may also need to say What about the Duty of These steps include
sorry in writing where Candour? informing people about
significant harm has been the incident, providing
caused or in response to The statutory Duty of reasonable support,
a written complaint. An Candour requires all NHS truthful information and
example of this could be: staff to act in an open an apology. Saying sorry
and transparent way. forms an integral part of
I wish to assure you that Regulations governing this process. Process should
I am deeply sorry for the the duty set out the never stand in the way of
poor care you have been specific steps healthcare providing a full explanation
given and that we are all professionals must follow when something goes
truly committed to learning if there has been an wrong.
from what happened. I unintended or unexpected
apologise unreservedly for event which has caused
the distress this has caused moderate or severe harm
you and your family to the patient.

Dont say Do say

x Im sorry you feel like p Im sorry X happened
Were truly sorry for
x Were sorry if youre p the distress caused
x Im sorry you took it Im sorry, we have
p learned that...
that way
x Were sorry, but...
We have never, and will never,
refuse cover on a claim because
an apology has been given.

Helen Vernon, Chief Executive, NHS Resolution

For more information The NHS Constitution

Nursing and Midwifery Patients: you have the right

Council & General Medical to an open and transparent
Council joint guidance on relationship with the
openness and honesty when organisation providing your
things go wrong care. You must be told about any safety incident relating
ethical_guidance/27233.asp to your care which in the
opinion of a healthcare
Reports and consultations professional, has caused or
on complaint handling could still cause significant
(Parliamentary and Health harm or death. You must be
Service Ombudsman) given the facts, an apology, and any reasonable support
you need.
AvMA (Action against Staff: you should aim to
Medical Accidents) Duty of be open with patients
Candour leaflet www.avma. if anything goes wrong; welcoming and listening to
duty-of-candour/duty-of- feedback and addressing
candour-leaflet concerns promptly and in the
spirit of cooperation.
Care Quality Commission
- Regulation 20: Duty of If you want to get in touch
Candour safetyandlearningenquiries@

Published June 2017