Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency - Openness and candour – a road to a true culture of safety

Openness and candour – a road to a true culture of safety

27 Apr 2022

In this episode of Taking care, we hear about the need for much greater openness and honesty between health practitioners, their patients and patients’ families – especially when things go wrong.

Trigger warning: Some readers may find this article distressing. If you are experiencing distress and are a registered medical practitioner or medical student, please visit the drs4drs website for support in your state or territory. Any readers can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 for help.

Host Tash Miles speaks with Patients for Patient Safety US network founding member Sue Sheridan; UK charity Action Against Medical Accidents CEO Peter Walsh; and Australian health lawyer Michael Gorton AM, who chaired an Expert Working Group on a Statutory Duty of Candour in Victoria.

 Our guests discuss what needs to be achieved by more openness, and how to create environments where it is acceptable to acknowledge shortcomings - and seek and provide answers for patients and their families - so further harm is avoided.

Sue Sheridan has two incredibly personal reasons to advocate for patient safety.

Her struggle with the US healthcare system for answers caused additional stress and trauma on top of the grief she and her family felt.

‘When harm happens and it’s not disclosed, my analogy is it’s like it’s a hit-and-run … you’re harmed, and people don’t even look back: they pretend like it didn’t happen,’ she said.

‘What is a true culture of safety? It engages the perspectives of patients and families - that we are engaged in reporting bad outcomes and the healthcare system has a system or mechanism to capture our stories, to capture our experiences, and we are also treated with dignity.’

Michael Gorton says legislation to introduce a statutory duty of candour in Victoria will give health services permission to be more open and candid with patients when things go wrong – and to discuss with them what will happen next.

Peter agrees greater candour and openness is good for everyone in the healthcare system.

‘It’s … empowering health professionals to do what comes naturally to them ... taking care of their patients, and being honest with them,’ he said.

‘[It means] Healthcare staff aren’t going to be inappropriately blamed, hung out to dry, bullied when things go wrong ... where they feel free to speak up and to do the right things … and where patients and families aren’t caused second harm by being badly treated and dishonestly treated when things have gone wrong.’

Listen to the full episode here.

Background information

 
Michael Gorton refers to a cluster of potentially preventable stillbirths and neonatal deaths that occurred at the Bacchus Marsh Hospital in Victoria between 2008 and 2015.  Ahpra has now completed a number of investigations into health practitioners, including nurses and midwives, who worked at Bacchus Marsh Hospital at that time. See here and here.
 

Did you know?

 
The Taking care podcast series offers professional and consumer perspectives on current issues and answers some frequently asked questions about public safety in healthcare. Download and listen to the latest Taking care episode today.
 
Ahpra releases a new episode fortnightly, discussing current topics and the latest issues affecting safe healthcare in Australia. You can also listen and subscribe on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and by searching ‘Taking Care’ in your podcast player.

 

Contact us

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Page reviewed 27/04/2022