Northern Ireland

Hyponatraemia: Research published on 'openness and honesty'

Adam Strain, Raychel Ferguson, Claire Roberts and Conor Mitchell
Image caption The children who died were Adam Strain, Raychel Ferguson, Claire Roberts and Conor Mitchell. Lucy Crawford's family chose not to release a photograph

The Department of Health has published research on the introduction of a duty of candour in health and social care.

This was one of the 96 recommendations from the inquiry into hyponatraemia-related deaths.

The 14-year inquiry into the deaths of five children in Northern Ireland hospitals found four were avoidable.

Hyponatraemia is a medical condition that occurs when there is a shortage of sodium in the bloodstream.

The Department of Health set up a number of working groups after the inquiry; one of them is examining the statutory duty of candour, which would require legislation to be enacted.

It would mean that every healthcare organisation and all people working for them must be open and honest in all their dealings with patients and the public.

The inquiry recommended that criminal liability should apply to the duty of candour.

Vital components

Quintin Oliver, who chairs the working group, said that openness and transparency were vital components of their work and that they are seeking written submissions to highlight any additional research or information.

"To date, the research has been aimed at improving our understanding of how candour operates in other jurisdictions, as well as the legal and human rights issues relevant to a statutory duty of candour."

The subjects covered by the group include guidance and resources on how candour and openness are to be applied at an operational level in health and social care settings, and the renewal of trust through apologies, admissions, punishment and training.

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