The guidance, jointly published with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, tells doctors or nurses they should apologise to a patient if something has gone wrong ‘as soon you become aware of this’.
But BMA chairman Dr Mark Porter said doctors need not apologise if a patient had suffered as a result of something that they believed was not their fault.
‘When things go wrong the vast majority of doctors already apologise at the earliest opportunity as this is a key professional duty,’ he said.
Failures rarely individual
‘Research shows that most poor outcomes are due to system rather than individual failures. Apologies in these circumstances should be couched in those terms if we are to have a process that is truthful and appropriate.’
The joint GMC and NMC draft guidance also provides advice to doctors and nurses on how they should report errors to encourage a learning culture within clinical professions.
The draft guidance is out for consultation until January 5, and the final guidance is expected to be published in March next year.
The GMC is separately consulting on whether its hearing panels, run by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, should be able to demand that doctors apologise where patients have been harmed if the doctor hasn’t already done so.