Suggested guidelines on the duty of candour have been jointly released by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) and theGeneral Medical Council (GMC).
The regulators hope the new guidance will help clinicians to be open and honest about mistakes.
Employers and clinical leaders should actively create open honest workplaces where people learn from mistakes so that future patients are protected from harm, the draft guidance states.
The proposals cover the need to learn from 'near misses' as well as when a patient is harmed. There is also advice on apologising to patients and those close to them.
Healthcare staff and members of the public have been invited to comment on the guidance.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, speaking at the launch of the consultation, said: "Transparency and honesty when things go wrong are powerful tools to improve patient safety, and part of the continued culture change we are determined to see in the NHS.
"These new guidelines will complement the statutory duty of candour on organisations and help make the NHS safer than ever before."
Niall Dickson, chief executive of the GMC said the joint guidance will ensure that doctors, nurses and midwives are working to a common standard, and will know exactly what their responsibilities are.
"It will only be of any use if it makes sense in day-to-day practice and that is why we are now going to consult with patients and with doctors, nurses and midwives who deal with these issues on the clinical front line. We want to know if it is clear enough, covers everything it should and we would welcome ideas on how best to illustrate the guidance working in practice.
"We also want to send out a very clear message to employers and clinical leaders -none of this will work without an open and honest learning culture and we know from the Mid Staffordshire enquiry and from our own work with healthcare professionals that too often such a culture does not prevail. It remains one of the biggest challenges facing our healthcare system and a major impediment towards safe effective care."
Jackie Smith, the NMC’s chief executive, said: "Healthcare professionals have a responsibility to be open and honest in the best interests of the people they care for. And we as regulators are responsible for protecting the public who use their services.
"The duty of candour will enhance public protection as it will nurture an open and constructive learning environment. This in turn will support healthcare professionals who wish to raise concerns.
"This guidance will help nurses, midwives and doctors – who work closely together – to uphold a common duty of candour and meet the responsibilities articulated in their professional standards."
The consultation is available to view online.