Hospital managers and non-clinicians could be drawn into the scope of a new criminal offence of wilful neglect and abuse of patients along with their organisation, it has emerged.

The government today announced the creation of a new criminal offence in its 244-page response to the Francis report.

The document reveals organisations at a corporate level could be charged with a crime, as well as individual people. It also does not differentiate between clinicians or managers with regards to the scope of the offence, saying only that “individuals” could be charged.

The Department of Health has said it is working through the recommendations to investigate who would be covered and how the law could operate.

HSJ understands the government will seek to introduce legislation as soon as possible in the parliamentary timetable.

Both Robert Francis QC and Don Berwick, who led a separate report into patient safety, called for criminal sanctions in relation to the very worst examples of poor care.

The response document published today says: “The government agrees with Professor Don Berwick’s recommendation that there should be legal sanctions where individuals and organisations are guilty of wilful neglect or mistreatment of patients.

“This will help ensure there is ultimate accountability for those guilty of the most extreme types of poor care.”

The document adds: “The government will legislate on this, and will work with stakeholders beforehand to determine the details of this measure, and will consult on proposals for legislation as soon as possible.”