Former care minister Paul Burstow has called for a new law to tackle neglect in nursing and care homes. Mr Burstow said: “We need a new criminal offence of corporate neglect which should take its lesson from the legislation on corporate manslaughter.
“We also need companies that provide care to realise it’s not just about their profits, but it’s ultimately about the dignity of the people they are looking after.”
The collapse of Britain’s biggest investigation into elderly care home neglect prompted Mr Burstow’s call for a reform of the law. Mr Burstow – who stepped down in last September’s reshuffle – said he was determined to ensure the government created the new law following the end of Operation Jasmine.
“We need companies that provide care to realise it’s not just about their profits. It’s ultimately about the dignity of the people they are looking after”
Police launched operation Jasmine over seven years ago following concerns over the death of more than 60 care home residents in six homes in Wales. Among the alleged victims were elderly people who became severely malnourished or dehydrated, or who died because of infected pressure sores.
Despite exhaustive inquiries, the Crown Prosecution Service said there was not enough evidence to charge key figures – including one of the care home owners Dr Prana Das – with gross negligence manslaughter or wilful neglect.
The call is being backed by Labour MP for Blaenau Gwent, Nick Smith who recently challenged David Cameron to ensure the law in this area was fit-for-purpose.
Care Minister Norman Lamb says he is considering the issue – but stopped short of agreeing to a change in the criminal law.
“When I first took on this job last September, I identified a clear gap in the regulatory framework – one which I’m determined will be addressed.
“This summer we will announce proposals to address the gap in the law on effective corporate accountability,” he said.
While English social services investigated more than 25,000 allegations of elderly neglect last year, just 170 criminal prosecutions for neglect were brought before the courts.
The Care Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords in May.