In February 2014, the Department of Health published a consultation seeking views on proposals for a new offence of ill-treatment or wilful neglect.

The Health Foundation’s response

Overall, the Health Foundation supports the introduction of this new criminal offence as part of a suite of actions, led both locally and nationally, to improve the safety of patients. In the response to the Department of Health we make three broad points that we believe will aid the successful introduction of the legislation:

  • It should be applied consistently across different healthcare settings and provisions, so that it will carry the confidence of patients and the public.
  • We suggest that this is made clear that the proposed approach will focus on the conduct of the offender not the outcome for the patient.
  • We suggest that more work is done to ensure that the risk of professionals becoming too risk averse, and the effect this might have on a culture of openness, is mitigated.

We believe that, alongside the introduction of the new offence, greater emphasis needs to be placed on building capability and understanding at each level of the NHS to enable people to design and work in safe systems of patient care.