A former health minister today called for legislation to hold corporations criminally accountable for abuse and neglect in care homes.

In a 10-minute rule motion, Lib Dem MP Paul Burstow proposed a new offence of corporate neglect where senior management allowed abuse to occur.

Companies owning the homes should face unlimited fines and criminal sanctions, he said, while organisations and staff would also be compelled to supply information to adult safeguarding boards.

Burstow’s plans are set out in a report on care and corporate neglect which followed last month’s final government report on abuse at Gloucestershire’s Winterbourne View Hospital.

The Care Quality Commission investigation published by the Department of Health found that staff routinely mistreated and abused patients and managers allowed a culture of abuse to flourish. Warning signs were not picked up and concerns raised by a whistleblower went unheeded.

The government announced more accountability of senior management and increased inspections and regulation of hospitals in the wake of the report, but Burstow (pictured) said the threat of harsher penalties is needed to ensure mistakes are not repeated elsewhere.

‘Everyone was shocked that the company in charge of Winterbourne View was not put in the dock to face criminal charges,’ he said. ‘It is not good enough for the thugs who carry out this kind of abuse to receive a criminal conviction, when the companies in charge have no criminal corporate accountability whatsoever.

‘It’s about time those who take the fees and employ and manage the staff in care homes are held to account for abuse and neglect that takes place on their watch.’

Jonathan Peacock, a partner at Irwin Mitchell who represented families whose relatives died at the Maypole Nursing Home in Birmingham, welcomed the prospect of new legislation.

He said: ‘Ensuring that the law allows unlimited fines and criminal sanctions for those who fail to ensure their residents are safe would send a very clear message to other home-owners going forward that abuse and neglect of any kind is simply unacceptable.’