Doctors, nurses and midwives will have to apologise and explain mistakes to patients under new guidelines published by the General Medical Council (GMC) and Midwifery Council this week.

The guidelines state medical staff must offer a prompt and heartfelt apology if a patient is injured as a result of medical treatment. The guidelines advise staff to share all knowledge of the incident using plain English and respond honestly to any questions patients may have. It is hoped the guidance will prevent medical staff from remaining silent about a failing they may have been involved with or witnessed.

According to the GMC and Midwifery Council, personal and meaningful face to face apologies from staff will help make the NHS more transparent and help patients overcome anxiety and distress following an error in their care or treatment.

The guidance seeks to reassure staff that apologising does not indicate that they should take personal responsibility for other people’s mistakes or system failures.

National Practice Lead for clinical negligence at Thompsons Solicitors, Linda Millband said: “These new guidelines from the GMC and Midwifery Council are long overdue. At the very least, patients deserve a sincere apology from medical staff when things go wrong.

“In the vast majority of cases, doctors, nurses and midwives provide the best levels of care to patients, however in rare instances of clinical negligence or wrongdoing, medical staff must admit liability for the victim’s benefit, but also to help increase transparency, promote honesty and best practice throughout the healthcare organisations.

“We have represented patients who have been compensated for catastrophic injuries as a result of medical negligence, yet have been denied an apology; something which can prove to be deeply distressing for victims who are seeking closure for a deeply traumatic experience.

“If anyone receives an apology but is still concerned about the medical treatment that they have received, we can provide specialist advice and support, as well as help assess whether a claim for compensation is an appropriate next step.”