This site is intended for health professionals only

‘Wilful neglect’ crime closer to implementation

16 June 2014

Share this article

Health and care staff who “wilfully neglect” patients could face a five-year prison sentence and a fine. 

The proposals were outlined following a government consultation into developing a new crime of “wilful neglect”, which would be followed up with a £5,000 fine. 

The crime would be applicable to anyone working in the NHS in England. 

Most organisations (98%) backed the new offense but the Medical Defence Union (MDU) feels the existing laws are sufficient. 

Dr Christine Tomkins, MDU CEO said: “No one would disagree with the premise that doctors who wilfully or recklessly mistreat a patient should face consequences. However, there is no evidence doctors are neglecting patients in such a way, and even if there are doctors could be erased from the medical register by the General Medical Council.

“Our concern is that the police would be bound to investigate cases were allegations were made. There will be an increase in the numbers of doctors investigated, but few, if any, would be found guilty of something as serious as wilful neglect. The danger is that it would encourage a culture of blame and fear rather than of learning an openness.”