Those guilty of improper medical care may face criminal charges

England 23/01/2014

In the UK, medical negligence is a big concern, and an issue the government is considering tackling using criminal sanctions.

Over the past year, the issue of NHS negligence has been in the news a great deal. Generally, UK hospitals have a reputation for offering a good standard of care. However, that reputation was tarnished when the Stafford care scandal story broke.

From 2005 to 2009, the standard of care offered in the Stafford Hospital began to slip. It reached the point where the hospital’s negligence was so great that people were dying.

The relatives of patients felt they had to do something. Led by Julie Bailey they campaigned for change. At first, they were not taken seriously, but the body of evidence they presented was compelling. The press reported that the death rate at the hospital was alarmingly high. Records showed that each year, hundreds more patients had died at Stafford than at other hospitals. Eventually, a full Public Inquiry was carried out. Worryingly, when the story broke, people from across the UK came forward with stories of neglect or improper care in other hospitals and care facilities.

Neglect by health professionals is not a criminal offence

There is no doubt that lessons have been learnt from the Stafford Hospital inquiry. Action has been taken, but many believe more needs to be done. Some of the senior figures who ran Stafford Hospital during the time medical care standards were slipping ended up in even more senior positions. A fact that indicates that effective punishment for failing to provide adequate care is almost non-existent.

The Director of Strategy at The Health Foundation, Dr Jo Biddy, believes that if we want to deter health care professionals from providing inadequate care things have to change. She proposes criminalising those that wilfully neglect their patients.

Dr Biddy has been listened to and the debate has begun. In time, we may see legislation that ensures all patients are properly cared for in hospital and that those who deliberately fail to provide proper care are prosecuted. Firms, like Bolt Burdon Kemp, that specialise in medical negligence cases. welcome the debate. They help hundreds who have been affected by medical negligence, so are acutely aware that it is a serious problem that desperately needs addressing.


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