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Monday, 18 November 2013

Patient neglect may become criminal offence

Written by The Editorial Team

The wilful neglect of patients could become a criminal offence in Scotland, the Health Secretary has said.

Alex Neil is “minded” to introduce legislation which is already under consideration in England.

The proposal was brought forward in the wake of recent care scandals, including in Mid Staffordshire where an investigation showed there were up to 1,200 excess deaths.

Mr Neil said limited legislation already exists in Scotland.

“I think there’s a lot of sense in extending the legislation we already have for vulnerable adults to everybody so that in these extreme cases, if it did happen in Scotland, we would be able to do the necessary,” he told the BBC’s Sunday Politics show.

“Obviously we need to look at the implications but I’m certainly minded to introduce that legislation in Scotland.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has said health workers who mistreated and abused patients would face “the full force of the law” in measures to be unveiled next week.

The offence south of the border will be modelled on laws against the wilful neglect of adults under the Mental Capacity Act, punishable by fines or up to five years in prison.

A consultation on what scale of sentence should be applied to the extended law will be carried out over the next few months by the UK Department of Health.

The move was one of the central recommendations of a review of patient safety commissioned by ministers in the wake of findings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

It was led by Professor Don Berwick, a former adviser to US president Barack Obama, who said it was needed to target the worst cases of a “couldn’t-care-less” attitude that led to “wilful or reckless neglect or mistreatment”.

The UK Government indicated when he published his report in August that it was likely to make the change.