Making a mistake: Summary

Last updated: Thursday, October 22, 2015

If you make a mistake, you must own up to it as soon as you realise what you've done and then deal with it immediately:
Put the patient first and act quickly to correct a mistake or deal with the consequences of it: ask for help from colleagues if necessary and discuss the situation with the patient's doctor.

Apologise to the patient in a sincere and personal way. Tell him or her what went wrong, describe the implications for them and how they will be managed, and explain how similar mistakes will be prevented in the future. Be able to give details of your employer’s complaints procedure.

Learn from a mistake by reflecting on what happened: what was it about you, the task, or the environment that led to the error? If appropriate, fill in an incident form so that your Trust can analyse it and reduce the risk of similar errors.

As an example of learning from other people’s mistakes, you might like to look at what the NHS network of Medicines Information centres, UKMi, does. It has a formal process for reporting errors and near misses. You can read more about this here. You’ll find that the recurring reasons for information errors that this system highlights is a helpful way to reflect on the risks that you might be exposed to professionally, whether you work in an MI centre or not.