Intended for healthcare professionals


Everyone’s going to make a mistake, but how can we make things better?

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: (Published 05 September 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o2161
  1. Anthea Martin, medicolegal consultant
  1. Medical Protection Society

Everyone will make a mistake at some point in their medical career. Some of these mistakes will be minor with little impact on the patient or clinician, others will be more significant and may cause real harm, resulting in consequences not only for the patient, but for the doctor too.

There are practical matters to consider when a mistake happens. The first thing to think about is the patient—what can be done to rectify the mistake and what care the patient needs following the mistake. After ensuring the patient is safe and well cared for the next thing to consider is informing the patient of the mistake. This is understandably something that often causes real anxiety and raises many questions. How will the patient react? What will this mean? Can I say sorry or is this admitting liability? Will the patient complain? Will I be referred to the General Medical Council …

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