Negligent NHS staff 'should be prosecuted'
Health experts have called for NHS staff who neglect their patients to be prosecuted in light of scandals such as Mid Staffordshire.
Investigations in 2009 and 2010 revealed that between 400 to 1,200 more people died at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust than would have normally been expected.
Suggestions of medical negligence arose when it emerged that poorly trained staff were too few in number, junior doctors were left alone in charge at night and some patients were left without food drink or medication. Some patients were also left in pain, needing the toilet or sat in soiled beds for prolonged periods.
Experts writing in the Journal of Medical Ethics have called for NHS staff to be prosecuted for a "gross dereliction of duty" in these circumstances, which already happens in France.
"No care was taken to ensure that patients were fed," they said.
"Basic standards of hygiene were not met, with relatives resorting to taking sheets home to wash."
Currently, staff in England only face prosecution if a serious error results in a patient's death, but doctors and nurses caring for patients under the Mental Health Act can be charged for wilful neglect.
The researchers, from the University of Manchester's centre for social ethics and policy, say Mid Staffordshire is not the first example of "abysmal" NHS care and will not be the last.
"Ill-treatment of a patient requires a deliberate course of conduct," they say.
"If wilful neglect was extended to the wider healthcare setting, liability would only ensue if the healthcare professional was indifferent to his/her patient's welfare."