The National Patient Safety Agency (NSPA) has recommended open disclosure to patients after an adverse event and has decreed that all clinicians should receive relevant training.
The main reasons cited by patients who sue are “desertion” after an adverse event and poor (or inadequate) information.
Clinicians whose patients suffer an adverse event may be inhibited from expressing regret, fearing it will be taken as admission of liability. They may feel shame and responsibility, which can lead to withdrawal. Albert Wu (a US physician) refers to the “2nd victim”.
These conversations with patients are difficult. Handled well, they can improve outcomes for all parties and reduce medico legal risk.
There is an increasing research base to show us which behaviours help. We also know that the only training proven to be effective takes a behavioural, skills-based focus – incorporating practice, observation, feedback and further rehearsal.