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Serious errors and neglect in the NHS should be a criminal offence, says safety expert

BMJ 2013; 347 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f4973 (Published 07 August 2013) Cite this as: BMJ 2013;347:f4973
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

A new criminal offence of recklessness or wilful neglect should be created to improve patient safety in the NHS in England, a report by a leading US expert has recommended.1

The report by a committee chaired by Don Berwick, president emeritus and senior fellow of the US Institute for Healthcare Improvement, said that the offence should apply to individuals and to organisations. But the use of such criminal sanctions should be “extremely rare” and unintended errors should not be criminalised.

Berwick was asked by the prime minister to examine how the NHS could move to “zero harm” in the wake of the damaging evidence disclosed by Robert Francis QC in his two reports on care failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.2 3 Berwick’s 44 page report was published on 6 August.

England’s health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said at a press briefing in London …

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