With one in four elderly care homes being condemned as unsafe in the first comprehensive industry audit by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), LHS Solicitors is warning providers they face unlimited fines and that CQC prosecutions are on the rise.
Following inspections of around 24,000 providers in England, the CQC report released found that 19% of services are rated as requires improvement and are struggling to improve and 2 per cent being are rated as inadequate. This equates to approximately 6,000 sector providers.
The report found that residents in a quarter of care homes are going weeks without being cleaned with some being served dangerous levels of medication as a result of poor leadership and staff shortages.
Meanwhile the number of prosecutions made by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) against health providers has risen sharply this year following the enactment of the Health and Social Care Act in 2015.
Care providers charged with breaches of regulations regarding harm now face unlimited fines and could even be left with criminal records after the new regulations greatly bolster the CQC's power of prosecution.
Lauren Wilson, lawyer at LHS Solicitors, said: "Since the CQC was given powers of prosecution in 2015, we've seen a spike in cases brought against health providers. Indeed, we've gone from zero in 2015, to two in 2016, to three between January and April 2017. This seems to be a testament to the CQC's new found dedication to holding health providers to account.
"Combine this with the findings of their report and we could see an exponential increase in the number of prosecutions made against the quarter of providers failing to provide the requisite levels of care to those in need. In addition, CQC are planning their next phase of inspections and stated that they will be targeting those who are falling below the standard."
"Providers should be aware that the CQC no longer has to serve a Warning Notice before pursuing a prosecution and that managers can also be prosecuted individually."
Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: "While this report shows that the vast majority of people receive 'good' or 'outstanding' adult social care, it is completely unacceptable that standards in some settings are below those rightly expected by care users and their families.
"That's why we have introduced tougher inspections of care services, provided an additional £2 billion to the sector and later this year we will be consulting on the future of social care in this country to put it on a stable footing for the future."
Commenting on the CQC's current stance, Debbie Westhead, deputy chief inspector of adult social care said: "If we find that a care provider has put people in its care at risk of harm, we will always consider holding them to account using our powers to prosecute."
Lauren continues: "Breaches in care facilities are a genuine concern which must be dealt with in a serious manner. Care providers need to be aware that the new regulations and vested power of the CQC could spell extreme action if providers are prosecuted. Each prosecution so far has generally centred on providers failing to ensure safe care and treatment and specifically, failures to control the risk of serious injury.
"The first prosecution that the CQC pursued was against St Anne's Community Services. Two care workers had gone to a service user's bedroom to assist him taking a shower. This service user had Down's syndrome, epilepsy, dementia and a severe learning disability. He had been in this home since 2012 and had a shower commode chair to assist him. However, on this occasion, because the care workers only strapped him in loosely, the chair fell forwards and he broke his neck from the fall. He later died in hospital.
''St Anne's Community Centre pleaded guilty and was ordered to pay £190,000 for failing in its duty to provide safe care and treatment.
"With the new regulations in place and key recommendations arising from the findings of the CQC report, we hope to see an overall improvement of health and care standards within the industry."
For more information on how to make sure you are fully compliant with current regulations and to find out more about LHS Solicitors visit www.lhs-solicitors.com.