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An Apology or an Admission of guilt?


Dr X, a Senior Consultant received a patient complaint in relation to his behaviour and an alleged misdiagnosis of a condition. It was later established that there was no misdiagnosis, however the patient still wished to pursue a complaint against Dr X for his alleged behaviour. The patient specifically requested an apology from Dr X, however Dr X did not feel that he had acted inappropriately at any time. The patient threatened to refer Dr X to the GMC.


MDS reviewed the matter and advised Dr X to apologise to the patient for their perception of his behaviour and for any distress caused to the patient. It is important to note that an apology is not an admission of guilt but it usually helps to diffuse a matter and prevent further action in certain circumstances.


  • The Compensation Act 2006 states; ‘An apology, an offer of treatment or other redress, shall not of itself amount to an admission of negligence or breach of statutory duty’.
  • As soon as possible after you become aware something has gone wrong you should seek out the patient and or their family and say sorry and acknowledge what has happened and tell them that you will find out more. Reassure them that you will keep them informed.
  • In fact, delayed or poor communication makes it more likely that the patient will seek information in a different way such as complaining or taking legal action.
  • If you require any advice on whether an apology to a patient is indicated and the best way to apologise then please contact MDS.