Medical Mistake Claims - Simpson Millar LLP

Prison for "reckless" NHS nurses and doctors?

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 13/08/2013

A new Government-sponsored review has suggested that NHS staff whose care for patients is "wilfully reckless" could face custodial sentences.

Doctors and nurses may be subject to prison terms of up to 5 years if the suggestions of the Berwick report are heeded.

According to Prof Don Berwick, a former White House advisor, a new criminal offence of 'wilful or reckless neglect or mistreatment' should be established.

Criminal action

However, Prof Berwick stressed that only a "very small number of cases" should be subject to criminal action, which should only be applied "rarely".

Requested by the Prime Minister, the Berwick report is the latest in a series of reports following the notorious scandal at Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, where neglect caused the needless deaths of up to 1,200 patients.

While most NHS professionals were praised by the Berwick review, it noted that "the systems, procedures, conditions, environment and constraints they face lead to patient safety problems".

Care was secondary

The review was a "call to action" according to Jeremy Hunt, who added that patient compassion, wellbeing and safety have been "secondary concerns" to areas of the NHS for too long. "This has to change," the health secretary said.

The Berwick report emphasises the importance of expert legal advice. Whether ministers properly act on the findings of the Berwick report remains to be seen, but instances of medical negligence claims can only increase the longer the Government drags its heels.

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