Key messages

  • A consultation paper has been released seeking the stakeholder views on aspects of a statutory duty of candour to be introduced in Victoria.
  • A statutory duty of candour is a recommendation of a review led by Dr Stephen Duckett into quality and safety across the Victorian health system.
  • A statutory duty of candour is a legal obligation to ensure that consumers of healthcare and their families are apologised to, and communicated with, openly and honestly when things have gone wrong in their care.
  • This section provides information about how you can have your say as part of the consultation on the statutory duty of candour.

Background

Targeting Zero, the review of hospital safety and quality assurance in Victoria, recommended that -

a statutory duty of candour be introduced that requires all hospitals to ensure that any person harmed while receiving care is informed of this fact and apologised to by an appropriately trained professional in a manner consistent with the national Open Disclosure Framework. (Recommendation 5.3)

The Minister for Health has committed to consult on the introduction of the statutory duty of candour and has asked that this consultation be led by an Expert Working Group appointed to provide advice on legislative reforms arising from Targeting Zero.

What is a statutory duty of candour?

A statutory duty of candour is a legal obligation to ensure that consumers of healthcare and their families are apologised to, and communicated with, openly and honestly when things have gone wrong in their care.

The term 'statutory duty of candour' is used to differentiate the proposed legal obligation from ongoing obligations to implement 'open disclosure' which arise from accreditation requirements, funding conditions and professional codes. The statutory duty of candour will not replace current open disclosure obligations. Rather, it will establish a complementary legal obligation to support improved compliance with open disclosure in a defined set of circumstances.

Effective open disclosure practices have been shown to have a range of benefits at both an individual and a system level.

  • Open and honest communication with consumers and their families following health care incidents is consistent with the shift that has occurred over recent years to a more patient centred and patient focussed approach to healthcare provision.
  • Open disclosure is associated with better detection and awareness of risk and strengthened trust in health care institutions. Ongoing improvement requires recognition, open discussion and ownership of problems when they occur.

What is the purpose of the consultation?

The consultation is seeking stakeholder views about how a statutory duty of candour for Victoria should be framed and the conditions that will be needed to ensure its success.

This is not a consultation on the merits of open disclosure. Open disclosure is already enshrined in national standards and is generally accepted as rightly part of health care provision in Australia. This is a consultation about a legal framework to support the existing national open disclosure standard and enhance to practice of open disclosure in this state.

How to have your say

A consultation paper outlining the issues and challenges that need to be considered in introducing a statutory duty has been prepared. Submissions in relation to the questions raised in this paper are invited from interested organisations and individuals.

Responses should be emailed to: dutyofcandour@dhhs.vic.gov.au or can be mailed to:

Expert Working Group
Targeting Zero Legislative Reform
C/- Department of Health and Human Services
Level 20
50 Lonsdale Street
MELBOURNE VIC 3000

The closing date for submissions is 1 December 2017.