Doctors and nurses who are found guilty of “wilful neglect” could face be put in jail.
Under changes made to NHS England and Wales following the numerous care scandals that have emerged recently wilful neglect will be made a criminal offence. The offence will be modelled on one punishable act that could be punishable by up to five years in prison under the Mental Capacity Act.
The proposals are said to be unveiled next week, however doctor’s leaders have said that the threat of criminal sanctions could create a climate of fear in the NHS, reports the BBC.
David Cameron has said that health workers who mistreated and abused patients will face “the full force of the law” in a package of measures.
Over the next few months a consultation of what scale of sentence should be applied will be carried out. This has come from one of the recommendations of a review of patiet safety which was commissioned by ministers after findings that hundreds suffered unacceptable treatment at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
Mr Cameron said the NHS was full of “brilliant” staff but the Mid Staffordshire case showed care was “sometimes not good enough. That is why we have taken a number of different steps that will improve patient care and improve how we spot bad practice,” he said. “Never again will we allow substandard care, cruelty or neglect to go unnoticed”.
Andy Burnham, the shadow health secretary, has said that the proposal should be introduced alongside the package of measures detailed in Sir Robert Francis’s public inquiry report into failings at Stafford Hospital. He has warned the government against adopting a “pick and mix” approach. He has also urged them to “tread carefully” to avoid denigrating staff.
The British Medical Association has said that doctors and nurses may be less likely to speak out against colleagues if they thought it could result in jail. Co-chairman of the BMA’s, Dr Andrew Collier, has said doctors who failed to meet certain standards need help and support.
“They don’t need this new climate of fear. They don’t need to be concerned that they may be sent to jail. What they need to do is learn from their mistakes and develop their practice,” he told BBC Breakfast.
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