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Wilful neglect and health care

Michael Mandelstam (Author, based at Sudbury, UK)

The Journal of Adult Protection

ISSN: 1466-8203

Article publication date: 2 December 2014




The purpose of this paper is to consider the criminal offence of wilful neglect in the context of hospital health care in England.


Summarise the evidence of neglectful care in hospitals and analyse the ingredients and application of the offence of wilful neglect.


Neglect is ongoing and systemic in the hospitals and the offence of wilful neglect seems to be ineffective as either a punitive or deterrent measure.

Practical implications

There is a mismatch between the extent of systemic, reckless neglect in the hospitals and the application of the criminal offence of wilful neglect. The answer, if any, might be: widening of the offence to anybody who is wilfully neglected (not just those mentally disordered or mentally incapacitated people), a new offence of corporate neglect, the holding of reckless leaders to account, and a reinvigorated Care Quality Commission and Health and Safety Executive.


The author is unaware that such a review of this area of law, applied to health care, has been undertaken.



Mandelstam, M. (2014), "Wilful neglect and health care", The Journal of Adult Protection, Vol. 16 No. 6, pp. 342-354.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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