Consultation on proposed law of wilful neglect

The government’s consultation document on the proposed new criminal offence of wilful neglect to be introduced in England and Wales was published yesterday.  The consultation has been produced as a result of recommendations made by Robert Francis in his report examining the failings of Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

The criminal offence of ill-treatment or wilful neglect is intended to cover cases where individuals have been subject to mistreatment by an act or omission that is not accidental.  The consultation documents suggest individuals found guilty of the offence could face up to five years imprisonment and/or £5000 in fines.  It also suggests that the organisations that employ such individuals could also face far stiffer financial penalties.

The Department of Heath say that such a law would act as a deterrent stating that “this offence will also send a strong message that poor care will not be tolerated and ensure that wherever ill-treatment or wilful neglect occurs, those responsible will be held to account.”

Care services minister Norman Lamb said “Our healthcare system is the envy of the world.  The NHS is full of caring and compassionate staff delivering the best care for patients.  But the Francis enquiry showed that sometimes the standard of care is not good enough.  This is not about punishing honest mistakes – it is about closing the gap in current laws so that this type of poor care cannot go unpunished.  The proposal is part of a package of measures after Francis to ensure better protections for patients, more support for NHS staff and greater transparency and openness in the NHS.”

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