Health providers face unlimited fines as CQC increase prosecutions



The number of prosecutions made by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) against providers has risen sharply this year following the enactment of the Health and Social Care Act (2014) in 2015.

Since the enactment, care providers charged with breaches of regulations regarding harm face unlimited fines and could even be left with criminal records after these regulations greatly bolstered the CQC's power of prosecution.

In one of the cases in 2015 following a patient death, an investigation into provision of medication was undertaken. While the cause of death was not directly linked to not receiving medication, a number of errors and omissions were found in the recording of medicines. The provider accepted responsibility and was ordered to pay £50,000.

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.

Lauren Wilson, lawyer at LHS Solicitors, said: "Since the CQC was given powers of prosecution in 2015 we've started to see 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 alone. This seems to be a testament to the CQC's new found dedication to holding health providers to account."

Commenting on one of the recent cases, 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 facilitates are a genuine concern which has to be dealt with in a serious manner. Care providers need to be aware that these regulations and the vested power of the CQC could spell extreme action if providers are prosecuted. Each of the prosecutions so far has centred on providers failing to provide safe care and treatment and specifically, failures to control the risk of serious injury."

"The first prosecution that 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 regulation in place we hope to see an overall improvement of health and care standards within the industry."

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