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The Professional Duty of Candor within the NHS and how to approach it in an interview

  • March 22, 2022

When something goes wrong with a patient's treatment or care and causes, or has the potential to create, harm or distress, every health and care provider must be upfront and honest with them. This is known in the NHS as The Professional Duty of Candor. Under this code of conduct health care providers within the NHS are expected to:

  • tell the person (or, where appropriate, their advocate, carer or family) when something has gone wrong
  • apologise to the person (or, where appropriate, their advocate, carer or family)
  • offer an appropriate remedy or support to put matters right (if possible)
  • explain fully to the person (or, where appropriate, their advocate, carer or family) the short and long term effects of what has happened.

Health and care workers must also be open and honest with their coworkers, employers, and other relevant organisations, as well as participate in evaluations and investigations when they are asked. They must also communicate openly and honestly with their regulators, flagging concerns as needed. They must encourage and support one another in being open and honest, rather than preventing someone from addressing concerns.

GMC guidance on Duty of Candor

The guidance is divided into two parts: 

  1. Your duty to be open and honest with patients in your care, or those close to them, if something goes wrong. This includes advice on apologising (paragraphs 7-22). 
  2. Your duty to be open and honest with your organisation, and to encourage a learning culture by reporting adverse incidents that lead to harm, as well as near misses (paragraphs 23 - 29).

How to refer to the Professional Duty of Candor within an NHS interview

During your NHS interview they will ask you some ethical scenarios. When answering these you may want to consider the Professional Duty of Candor. The NHS expects that you must not try to prevent colleagues or former colleagues from raising concerns about patient safety. If you are in a management role, you must make sure that individuals who raise concerns are protected from unfair criticism or action, including any detriment or dismissal. Thus, if you are asked what you would do in a situation where for example someone is trying to stop another colleague from raising a concern – you must speak up and be honest to senior.

Simultaneously if you are asked about how you would react after an incident you will be marked highly for quoting the NHS Professional Duty of Candor and explaining that you regard the importance of honesty and transparency highly.

The panel may ask you about a past mistake you have made. Similarly, you should place the emphasis in your answer on what you did after the matter to ensure the likely hood of the situation happening again is reduced. Under the Professional Duty of Candor guidelines, you should also make it clear to your interviewer that you took responsibility.

A nice follow up to your answer could be that you took part in a clinical audit to further the safety of the hospitals practice and again to demonstrate your willingness to take responsibility and improve yours and the hospitals procedures.  

How can we help?

If you are an international doctor who would like support in securing a service post within the NHS, email your CV to [email protected] and we can support you in securing an NHS post by giving you tailored NHS approved interview preparation.

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