First ever fine for breach of medical honesty rules

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Laurence Vick of Enable LawA hospital trust has become the first in England and Wales to be fined for failing in its ‘duty of candour’ – regulation demanding healthcare providers are open and transparent with people who use their services.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust was fined £1,250 by the government’s healthcare watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for failing to be open with the parents of a baby whose death should have triggered an apology and explanation.

This criminal enforcement powers came into force in 2014.

The case related to a baby admitted to Bradford Royal Infirmary in July 2016. Although the Trust recorded the baby’s care as a notifiable safety incident – triggering the operation of the duty of candour – the family were not informed of this and did not receive an apology until October of that year.

The CQC found that the Bradford Trust had been guilty of delay in informing the bereaved family of delays in diagnosing his condition and missed opportunities to admit the child to hospital.

The CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, Professor Ted Baker, said: “The action that we have taken against Bradford Teaching Hospitals does not relate to the care provided to this baby, but to the fact that the Trust was slow to inform the family that there had been delays and missed opportunities in the treatment of their child.

“Patients or their families are entitled to the truth and to an apology as soon as practical after the incident, which didn’t happen in this case.”

New CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm had confirmed in November that it would be carrying out more criminal investigations and had hired ex-military and civil police officers to review evidence in 31 potential prosecutions.
Enable Law legal director Laurence Vick says is a sign the CQC is prepared to flex its muscles on this regulation:

Laurence said: “This case serves as a reminder that healthcare providers must be open and honest with patients and their families when something goes wrong and they must do so in a timely manner.

“Lessons will hopefully have been learned from this tragic case. The maximum fine of £2,500 is comparatively small but the reputational damage is something which Trusts and other providers will certainly wish to avoid.”