Sorry (28 July 2017)

Paul Randolph, in his excellent book ‘The Psychology of Conflict’, says … ‘’Sorry’ is the word many aggrieved parties crave most strongly. It is at the same time an inexpensive, swift and easy means of addressing and resolving a perceived injustice. Yet it is almost impossible to extract the word from a litigant or disputing party.’

This has also been my experience in dealing with hundreds of disputes as a mediator, a lawyer and a human resources adviser.

Perhaps things will change following a bold step by NHS Resolution, the division of the NHS that provides indemnity cover for clinical liabilities. They have recently published a leaflet called ‘Saying Sorry’ which tells clinicians they have a duty to say sorry to patients and their families as soon as possible. The document expressly disapproves of expressions such as ‘I’m sorry you feel like that’ and suggests expressions such as ‘I’m sorry x happened’ and ‘We’re truly sorry for the distress caused’. It goes on to reassure clinicians: “We have never, and will never, refuse cover on a claim because an apology has been given.”