The professional duty of candour

Adverse events that did not result in harm or distress

  1. Sometimes you may encounter an adverse event in practice that had the potential to cause harm or distress but this did not occur, for example, because of preventative action that you may have taken. You should use your professional judgement when considering whether to inform patients about these events.
  2. You should consider whether failure to be open could damage their trust in you and the healthcare team. There may be information that the patient would want or need to know about and, in these cases, you should talk to the patient about what has happened. For example, you discover that the follow-up examination date for a patient has been entered incorrectly on a patient record or that a referral which you agreed with the patient has not been forwarded to the relevant healthcare professional. In both cases, this may not have resulted in immediate harm or distress for the patient, but the delay in the patient receiving the required care should be rectified and consideration should be given to informing the patient of the reasons for this.
  3. In some circumstances, patients do not need to know about something that has not caused (and will not cause) them harm, and telling them may distress or confuse them unnecessarily.
  4. As with all adverse events, registrants should reflect on why the event happened and what action should be taken in future to prevent reoccurrence by sharing learning to help ensure patient safety.