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Monday, February 09, 2015

Lying about poor care in our hospitals to be punished

The latest UK government initiative to tackle poor care is interesting to say the least. The Times reports that the UK Health Minister proposes to bring forward legislation that will mean that NHS bosses could face two years in jail for lying about poor care. In addition, hospitals that cannot prove they have owned up and apologised to patients for mistakes will also be fined £10,000 for losing negligence claims:

The government is creating a new “false or misleading information offence”, which will make it a crime to knowingly give incorrect data to regulators or official audits. Hospitals face unlimited fines if they are convicted and could also be publicly shamed by being forced to tell patients or display posters about their lies.

Senior staff who “consented or connived” in the deception could be fined or imprisoned for up to two years. The offence will apply to any information that hospitals are legally required to publish or submit to official bodies and is aimed at chief executives and senior medical staff. Ministers concede that it is likely to be used rarely, but the measure was condemned by doctors’ leaders who said it could make staff too scared to speak up.

Since the end of last year, NHS organisations have had a legal duty to admit mistakes to patients, and the latest plans aim to penalise those that do not. Hospitals that cannot prove they have been fully open when facing a negligence claim will have to reimburse £10,000 to the NHS Litigation Authority, which pays out claims.

This is all well and good but isn't fining hospitals just taking money away from frontline care? It is effectively transferring cash from caring to patients back to government coffers. I think they need to think this through more carefully.

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