We are grateful to BMJ for publishing this paper, written by our Law and Policy Officer Dr Jenny Vaughan in conjunction with Dr Ameratunga, Dr Klonin Dr Merry and Dr Cusack, and giving it front page profile. We hope it will be a game-changer for the UK and that no other clinicians, be they doctors, nurses or optometrists will find themselves in front of a criminal court unless they have recklessly and wilfully caused death. Hanging individuals out to dry and letting the system off scot-free is the stuff of the dark ages.
The key messages are:
-Healthcare systems should provide an adequate and effective response to patients who have been unintentionally harmed while receiving care
-To improve patient safety we need a greater focus on learning and resolution rather than retribution and blame, recognising the importance of protecting confidential personal reflective practice while encouraging open disclosure and system transparency
-In line with the recommendations from the Williams review, England and Wales should have a higher threshold for criminal prosecution in response to deaths that arise despite conscientious efforts to care for patients under difficult circumstances
-We urgently need to improve the clinical working environment and resourcing for safe functioning of hospitals