Duty of candour for health services

Nov 29, 2022

From 30 November 2022, health services in Victoria are under a statutory duty of candour to patients who suffer a serious adverse patient safety event while receiving health services.

The duty of candour was introduced under the Health Legislation Amendment (Quality and Safety) Act 2022, which amends various existing legislation including the Health Services Act 1988, Ambulance Services Act 1986, Mental Health Act 2014, Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 and the Health Complaints Act 2016

The amendments apply to public health services, public and private hospitals, day procedure centres, ambulance services and other health service providers.

What is a serious adverse patient event?

A serious adverse patient safety event is an event that:

  1. occurred while the patient was receiving health services from a health service entity; and
  2. in the reasonable opinion of a registered health practitioner, has resulted in, or is likely to result in, unintended or unexpected harm (which includes moderate or severe harm or prolonged psychological harm) being suffered by the patient.

This includes an event that is identified following discharge from the health service entity.

What is required of health services entities?

If a patient suffers a serious adverse patient safety event, pursuant to the statutory duty of candour, the heath service entity must provide the patient (and/or their next of kin or carer) with:

  1. a written account of the facts regarding the adverse patient safety event;
  2. an apology for the harm suffered by the patient;
  3. a description of the health service’s response to the event;
  4. a description of the steps that the health service entity has taken to prevent recurrence of the event

It is intended that the statutory duty of candour will assist patients better understand what has happened and why, make informed decisions about their future and rebuild their trust in the healthcare system.

The Victorian Duty of Candour Guidelines set out timelines and processes that health services entities must comply with to adhere to the duty.

If you operate a heath service and require assistance navigating the Statutory Duty of Candour, please contact Heather Richardson or Jessica Seferis.