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Professor Don Berwick report - criminal sanctions

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Professor Don Berwick, an international expert in patient safety, published a report on 6 August 2013 which follows in the wake of the Francis Report into the breakdown of care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

Professor Don Berwick’s report focuses on the main problems and difficulties affecting patient safety in the NHS and he makes recommendations to resolve them.

Professor Berwick has called for two fundamental changes. Primarily, the report focuses on the construction and implementation of a criminal charge for the wilful or reckless neglect of patients by hospital staff. Secondly, the report covers staffing levels within the NHS.

‘Where there is wilful or reckless neglect of patients, there needs to be consequences.’

Professor Berwick’s report states that there should be criminal sanctions for those staff who willfully or recklessly neglect patients. The Professor believes this should be made law. However, he has warned against designing an organisation where hospital staff were unwilling to own up to errors they had made.

It appears that accidental mistakes would not be subject to prosecution however; organisations that are disingenuous or attempt to deceive regulators would face criminal charges.

At Stephensons, we welcome this proposal as measures need to be put in place to safeguard patients and ensure that they are not victims of neglect. Professor Berwick has found substantial problems with the healthcare service that need addressing imminently. It is clear that Professor Berwick has made a considerable appeal for the NHS to be revolutionised, but are his recommendations going to be acted upon?

I'll look at the report once again in my next blog tomorrow.