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Wilful neglect to be made an offence

Consultation seeks views on introducing new legislation 

People receiving NHS or social care in Scotland are to have new legal protections against ill-treatment or wilful neglect, in proposals put forward by the Scottish Government.

A consultation has been published today seeking views on the introduction of new legislative measures that will make it a criminal offence to deliberately mistreat or neglect people receiving care.

This will add to existing laws that already make it an offence to deliberately neglect or mistreat mental health patients or adults with incapacity, extending the legal protection to everyone using NHS or social care services in all health and care settings.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said:

“The vast majority of staff across our NHS in Scotland care for patients day in, day out with tremendous compassion and are a credit to their professions and the NHS. The Scottish Government’s investment in the NHS has helped increase staffing to record levels and by utilising workforce planning tools NHS boards can ensure they have the right staff in the right place at the right time.

“Due to the high standards set by the staff of the NHS, any instances of wilful neglect or mistreatment of patients in Scotland are thankfully extremely rare. However events elsewhere in the UK have shown that we need to address this potential gap in the law.

“Let me be clear that the Scottish Government is only proposing to make deliberate acts of mistreatment an offence. We are absolutely not seeking to criminalise instances of genuine error and accident, and these will continue to be dealt with through the existing arrangements.”

The consultation runs for thirteen weeks until January 9, 2015. It aims to seek views on a number of areas which will shape the development of legislation.

These include whether the offence only applies to care delivered in formal health and social care services, whether the offence should be based on the actions of an individual or the harm caused, and whether the offence should apply to organisations as well as individuals.

The consultation will also seek views on the penalty for individuals and organisations convicted of wilful deliberate neglect or mistreatment. The Scottish Government has proposed applying the existing penalties for offences of wilful neglect in respect of mental health patients and adults with incapacity, which include a prison sentence and/or fine.

The consultation is available to view on the Scottish Government The Scottish Government expects to report on the consultation responses by Easter 2015

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