The Victorian Government will introduce a duty of candour law and related reforms in 2021. We are seeking your help to get the balance right.

The online consultation period has now closed. Thank you for your contribution. Submissions will be considered to inform drafting the bill and developing the guidelines.

If you have any questions, please contact us at dutyofcandour@dhhs.vic.gov.au.

The reforms have the potential to impact everyone who interacts with health services, consumers and clinicians. So, it is important that everyone has the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to their detailed design.

Under the duty of candour law, hospitals will have an obligation to:

  • apologise to any person seriously harmed while receiving care
  • explain what went wrong
  • describe what action will be taken and what improvements will be put in place.
  • Saying sorry will not be an admission of fault relevant to court determinations.

    The law will be the first of its kind in Australia.

    The related reforms were recommended by an Expert Working Group appointed to advise on a statutory duty of candour and other legislative changes arising from Targeting Zero: supporting the Victorian hospital system to eliminate avoidable harm and strengthen quality of care (PDF 1.58 MB). The Expert Working Group’s report on statutory duty of candour followed extensive public consultation from over 60 stakeholders.

    The report and a government response are available at Department of Health and Human Services - Statutory Duty of Candour Website.

    Expert Working Group report on statutory duty of candour (DOCX 1 MB)

    Victorian Government response to Expert Working Group report on statutory duty of candour (DOCX 236 KB)

    We have also created a short (10 minute) narrated PowerPoint slide deck that steps out the proposed reforms and the context, available to view as a video. The video is available here (opens in same window).

    The Victorian Government has accepted in principle all recommendations made by the report. But we recognise that the recommended reforms are complex and require careful consideration. They include elements that:

    • increase transparency and access to information, to ensure open communication
    • restrict access and use of certain information, to support quality improvement.

    Your input will help us to draft the bill and develop the guidelines. Safer Care Victoria, our peak body for health quality and safety, will lead the consultation.

    More information on the specific areas for further consultation are below, followed by a survey.

    Victorian candour and open disclosure guidelines

    The statutory duty of candour will:

    • apply to incidents of a high severity rating
    • complement existing obligations under the Australian Open Disclosure Framework
    • be high level and supported by the Victorian candour and open disclosure guidelines.

    This consultation will assist us to develop the guidelines recommended by the Expert Working Group. The guidelines will offer detailed instructions to health service on what they must do to comply with the duty.

    Protections for clinical incident reviews - proposed model

    In addition to establishing the statutory duty of candour, the Victorian Government will create legal protections for reviews of serious clinical incidents by health services.

    Clinical incident review processes are valuable quality and safety improvement processes conducted in relation to serious incidents.

    This consultation will test the proposed model of protections. The Expert Working Group recommended protections like those in place in New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland for these reviews. The protections will mean that review working documents and reports are not subject to Freedom of Information requests and cannot be called upon in court.

    However, under our proposed model, reports will be offered to patients, family members and carers, consistent with candour and open disclosure.

    Collection notice

    Participation in this questionnaire is voluntary. Safer Care Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services (the Department) is committed to protecting your privacy. The Department collects and handles the information you provide in this questionnaire to inform the development of the Victorian candour and open disclosure guidelines (guidelines) and the proposed model of protection for clinical incident reviews (model). When you make your submission, you can choose to provide information, including your postcode, the name of the organisation on whose behalf you are responding, your category of stakeholder (but you do not need to provide this information, your answer may be entirely anonymous). The Department may use these details to identify your submission, discuss it with you, and to enable you to access it or make a correction. You are not asked to provide any other personally identifying information and you are asked not to include such information in your answers. The information you provide is for internal use only and will inform the development of the guidelines and model.

    The Department will not publish your personal details. Those details will only be used for this consultation. The Department will take reasonable steps to remove personally identifying information from submissions before it publishes any of their contents, and the Department will always remove contact information such as email or address details before publishing any part of a submission.

    All submissions may be subject to Freedom of Information and other laws. For more information on the Department’s privacy collection practices, please refer to the Department’s privacy policy or visit our website on https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/publications/privacy-policy.

    The Department can be contacted by emailing dutyofcandour@dhhs.vic.gov.au or you may contact the Department’s Information Sharing and Privacy team by emailing privacy@dhhs.vic.gov.au.

    Safer Care Victoria is the state’s healthcare quality and safety improvement specialist.

    We share better, safer healthcare

    • We work with national and international experts and partner with Victoria’s brightest to run improvement projects, and develop guidance and resources that help make healthcare safer.
    • We collect data and information on healthcare safety, reviewing systemic issues and helping services to prevent future harm.
    • We support independent review boards and councils, which advise all levels of government on healthcare safety, improvement and innovation.

    Why we are here

    Back in 2016, it was recognised that Victoria needed a new approach to improve the quality and safety of healthcare.

    That’s why we were established in 2017. And why we take a determinedly fresh and independent-minded approach to helping health services.

    Our range of programs and projects may seem incredibly broad, but they all have the same goals – to support you to get better and to help patients stay safer.