The DoH floated the idea in its response to the NHS Future Forum report on the Health Bill, arguing the move would 'strengthen transparency' and 'increase patient confidence'.
Providers could be contractually required to publish an annual 'declaration of a commitment to openness' including a requirement always to tell patients if something has gone wrong during their care.
This could be added to NHS standard contracts that cover secondary and community care without negotiation. But the consultation said updating the GP contract would be 'more complex' and require negotiation with the GPC.
Current GMC guidance advises that if a patient suffers harm or distress, doctors should act immediately to put matters right and offer an apology.
But GPC deputy chairman Dr Richard Vautrey said the GPC would not back an openness clause in the GP contract. He said the DoH should focus on ensuring providers learn from significant events, warning this had not always been done well.
'It is important for every profession to highlight when there are concerns, but every practice already has a system in place to review significant events and learn from them,' he said.
'Writing this into the GP contract would confuse contractual with professional issues.'