Sir David Nicholson could face a private criminal prosecution for corporate manslaughter over deaths at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust, HSJ can reveal.
The NHS chief executive has been named in an application sent to Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court last week by a member of the public.
Retired investment banker Alan Edwards, aged 38, from Greenwich, London, has applied to the court to seek permission to bring a prosecution against Sir David on four counts: corporate manslaughter; misconduct in public office; perverting the course of justice and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
The case was transferred to Westminster Magistrates Court on Friday and an initial hearing date could be scheduled to take place within weeks.
Although unusual, members of the public can apply to bring a private criminal prosecution. Mr Edwards would first need to convince the court there is a prima facie case to answer, which Mr Edwards hopes to do within the next month.
His chances of success are unclear.
If he does convince magistrates to allow the case, Mr Edwards will seek an order for what is known as central funding from the Ministry of Justice to cover expert and legal representation costs.
Mr Edwards has no connection to the poor care scandal at Mid Staffordshire.
However, among a list of potential witnesses in his application to the court are members of the Mid Staffordshire campaign group Cure the NHS. Also listed are Sir Brian Jarman, who has led development of hospital level mortality rates; former Care Quality Commission investigator Heather Wood; CQC board member Kay Sheldon and a number of patient groups representing families across the UK.
Mr Edwards, who claims he has personal experience of poor care in the NHS, confirmed to HSJ he had made an application to the court on 5 March.
He said: “The regulatory system is just not fit for purpose. That is why I am doing this and because there are serious failings across the health system which means things like deaths are covered up.
“We will seek full disclosure of all correspondence with David Nicholson’s office to find out about all of the information he received, what information he had and what he did with that.”
Sir David has previously apologised over the failures at Mid Staffordshire and last week told MPs on the Commons health committee he accepted “patients were not at the centre” of the organisation of the NHS for the years when the problems arose. He has defended his role in relation to the problems both to the health committee and to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry, which reported last month.
Sir David yesterday said he had taken some action in relation to Mid Staffs and argued he had not been aware of the scale of its problems.
The principle of the ability to bring private prosecutions has previously been upheld by UK courts. Past examples of private prosecution attempts include a manslaughter case brought by a relative of one of the 51 victims of the Marchioness disaster in 1989.
Responding to HSJ’s inquiry about Mr Edwards’ case, a DH spokeswoman said: “We see no basis for this case.”