Recent scandals have caused proposed changes in the medical laws and the punishments that medical professionals will face if they break these new proposed regulations. These new laws will mean that medical professionals who break these rules could face up to five years in prison.
A recent review of patient safety found that there were hundreds of people who were suffering because of wilful neglect and mistreatment by medical professionals, which prompted lawmakers to look at the current regulations and at what needed to be changed.
While there are currently sanctions that can be placed on medical professionals, these do not carry strict enough punishments so that medical professionals take them seriously. The new regulations are still being considered, and it will take several months before the scale for sentencing is fully established. However, the Commission will be looking at making patient safety a high priority. It will also look at creating the means to lead the medical profession into openness and transparency.
This will be designed to help quickly spot situations where patient care is not as it should be, to avoid scandals as well as substandard care. It was made obvious that the cruelty and neglect found in this latest rash of issues went unnoticed for an extended period, attracting policymakers to make changes to remedy problems in this sorely lacking area.
The proposal, which should be presented soon, will also include discussions on the lack of staffing and its effects on care. There are other concerns as well. For example, some believe that placing a criminal punishment on wilful neglect will make medical professionals less willing to speak out against colleagues.
The proposal has stirred up quite a bit of talk among policymakers and medical professionals. Some believe that providing more training and support will be all that is necessary, that changing the law is merely a way to grab attention and headlines, and that fear will be the only thing that comes out of adding criminal charges.
Alternatively, others believe that the new laws will encourage people to be more aware of what is going on and be more proactive about noticing when patient care is suffering. Still others believe that a system should be put in place that provides training and monitoring, that staff should be increased, and that there should be a criminal penalty for people who are found guilty of wilful neglect. In other areas of the UK, policymakers are taking a ‘wait and see’ attitude, saying they will see what England comes up with before they look at changing their own policies.
The healthcare industry has been under a great deal of pressure. Caring for an increasing number of patients while organisations are understaffed can lead to mistakes. These types of cases may be considered as separate from laws regarding wilful neglect, which seek to punish people who are deliberately providing care that is substandard, abusing patients or being cruel to them. It is true that medical professionals are human and that humans make mistakes, but wilful neglect is something different. It shows a lack of caring and a disregard for human life and condition, something that should not be a part of the thought process, actions or attitude of any medical professional.
Medical professionals face a great deal of pressure. People’s lives hang on their skills and decisions, and it can be easy to get overwhelmed and lose track of what is most important. However, medical professionals should be prepared to handle this pressure. That there are some who wilfully ignore their responsibilities is something else entirely.