The Statutory Duty of Candour (SDC) was introduced in Victoria in November 2022 to ensure that patients are informed about any significant adverse events that occur during their treatment and care. The SDC requires all health service entities in Victoria to be open and honest with patients when an adverse event occurs and to provide them with information and support.
The health service entities that must comply include public health services, private and public hospitals, day procedure centres and ambulance services.
The SDC guidelines set out a clear process that must be followed by all health service entities in Victoria when a significant adverse event occurs.
The process consists of three stages, with a total of nine requirements that must be met.
In Stage One, the health service entity must provide a genuine apology to the patient for the harm suffered and provide initial information about the event as early as practicable in the first 24 hours after the event has been identified by the health service entity (requirement one). The health service entity must also take steps to organise an SDC meeting within three business days of the event being identified (requirement two).
In Stage two, the SDC meeting must be held within 10 business days of the event being identified (requirement three). During the meeting, the health service entity must provide an honest, factual explanation of what occurred, offer an apology for the harm suffered, provide an opportunity for the patient to relate their experience and ask questions, explain the steps that will be taken to review the event and any immediate improvements made, and provide information about any implications as a result of the event and any follow-up for the patient (requirement four). The health service entity must also document the SDC meeting and provide a copy of the meeting report to the patient within 10 business days of the meeting (requirement five).
In Stage three, the health service entity must complete a review of the event and produce a report outlining what happened and any areas identified for improvement (requirement six). If the event is classified as a sentinel event (an avoidable event), the health service entity must also outline clear recommendations from the review findings.
The report must be offered to the patient within 50 business days of the event being identified by the health service entity (requirement seven). If the event involves more than one health service entity, this may be extended to 75 business days. The health service entity must also ensure that there is a record of the SDC being completed (requirement eight) and report its compliance with the SDC as legally required (requirement nine).
The introduction of the SDC in Victoria is a positive step towards ensuring that patients are informed about any significant adverse events that occur during their healthcare.
It promotes transparency and accountability within the healthcare system and helps to build trust between patients and healthcare providers. By following the guidelines set out in the SDC, health service entities can demonstrate their commitment to patient safety and provide patients with the information and support they need when something goes wrong.