The Government is consulting on making “wilful neglect” of patients a criminal offence in England. Any health professional successfully prosecuted could face up to five years imprisonment and/or £5,000 in fines, and their employing organisation receiving financial penalties.

The recommendation for an offence to apply to the NHS came from an advisory group after the Francis report on Mid Staffs. The Department of Health says this  will send a strong message that poor care will not be tolerated.

The document 'New offence of ill-treatment or wilful neglect', suggests that a new “general offence of wilful or reckless neglect or mistreatment”, applies where the individual or organisation wilfully neglects or ill-treats someone in a way that causes serious harm or death. Penalties for the offence are equivalent to those under section 44 of the Mental Capacity Act 2005.

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