Senior managers and doctors could face criminal charges under government proposals to change the law on involuntary manslaughter, the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges has warned.
The academy made its claims after hearing that the proposals - drawn up after a series of tragedies such as the Southall and Paddington rail crashes in which no-one was prosecuted - are likely to be announced in the Queen's speech.
The Home Office proposals, on which consultation ended in September, set out three new offences of corporate killing, reckless killing and killing by gross carelessness to change the law on involuntary manslaughter.
The academy, which represents 17 medical royal colleges, believes that under the proposals, doctors would be vulnerable to criminal charges if a complaint was made following the death of a hospital patient, particularly if the death followed a high-risk operation.
Academy chair Professor Sir Denis Pereira Gray said that such cases could be classed as those in which 'death is associated with another person who knew the risk and went ahead', unless the proposed legislation is altered.
Sir Denis told HSJ: 'Very difficult and sometimes dangerous operations have to be carried out and if they go wrong. . . it is not too difficult to unravel a number of cases where doctors and managers could end up having a case mounted against them.'
The academy is calling for the NHS to be made a special case, and for implementation of the legislation to be phased in.
Sir Denis also flagged up the risks that doctors and senior managers could be found culpable if deaths were due to inadequate or old equipment, and fire and safety hazards caused by long-term underspending.
He added: 'In private companies they have two options: one is to put up charges, the other is to close the business down. The NHS has neither option.'