My doctor’s a criminal: Health care workers who neglect patients ‘unlikely’ to be convicted, Manchester experts say

By Neil Robertson

Doctors and nurses who wilfully neglect patients are unlikely to be convicted, according to investigations by the University of Manchester.

The review comes following the Stafford Hospital scandal, where substandard levels of care given to patients led to an estimated 400 and 1,200 deaths.

The University’s of Manchester’s School of Law research team say the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust will not face prosecution for their ‘appalling’ failures, unless laws are changed.

Professor Margot Brazier, who led the team, claims the ‘appalling’ failures of those at Mid Staffordshire must be brought to light.

“This is inherently unfair, when you realise that many of those responsible for leaving patients screaming in pain for hours will not be prosecuted,” she said.

Professor Brazier claims the doctors and nurses at Stafford Hospital were inadequately supervised, and that there was ‘no evidence of deliberate disregard’ for patients.

She will ask if bad doctoring is a crime in a public lecture entitled ‘My Doctor’s a Criminal’ tonight.

This lecture will no doubt address doctor accountability, after junior doctors and nurses faced charges of gross negligence manslaughter following the Stafford Hospital scandal.

According to the University of Manchester researchers, these doctors and nurses were unfairly prosecuted under law for making genuine – though tragic – mistakes.

The researchers argue that prosecutors should use new and existing offences to prosecute the ‘bad’ doctors.

The deliberate infliction of unnecessary suffering by these doctors should be a criminal matter, according to University of Manchester researcher Neil Allen.

“The sad reality is that English criminal law better protects animals against cruelty than it does hospital patients,” he said.

“It is not generally a crime for health care professionals to ill-treat or wilfully neglect them.

“We are all vulnerable when sick and should all be protected from wilful neglect and ill treatment. Respect for human dignity surely demands nothing less.”

‘My Doctor’s a Criminal’ will be held tonight at 5 pm at the Samuel Alexander Theatre, Samuel Alexander Building, University of Manchester.

Picture courtesy of Tahitialime, with thanks.

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