CQC flexing its new muscles with first care sector prosecution
In November 2014, new enforcement powers in relation to health and adult social care in England were granted to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) by the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 and, as of 1 April 2015, some of the existing powers of the Health and Safety Executive were transferred to CQC.
CQC recently published details of its first prosecution against a care provider, St Anne’s Community Services. The provider was prosecuted for failing to provide safe care and treatment, following the death of a resident as a result of injuries sustained having fallen from a shower chair and breaking his neck. The shower chair had fallen forwards while he was loosely strapped in.
It was concluded that the provider had failed to ensure that staff understood how to fit the strap safely and failed to carry out effective equipment audits. Bradford Magistrates’ Court fined the provider £190,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £16,000.
Whilst the fine imposed was a significant sum, it was considerably less than the fine that could have been given in light of the new guidelines (£300,000 to £1.3 million) due to substantial mitigating factors and credit for the defendant’s early guilty plea.
Debbie Westhead, Deputy Chief Inspector of CQC Adult Social Care, said: “When serious incidents occur, we now have additional powers to hold providers to account in the courts. In future if we find that a care provider has put people in its care at risk of harm, we will always consider using those powers to the full to prosecute those who are responsible”.
This recent case serves a significant warning to the care sector, highlighting CQC’s appetite to exercising its new enforcement powers, and exposes the financial risk that care providers face under the new health and safety regime.
We will no doubt see many more prosecutions in the near future. Therefore, it is of paramount importance that all care providers ensure that they are fully compliant with their duties and obligations by adopting correct procedures, such as effective risk assessments and providing appropriate training.
Ellis Jones has a highly skilled team of commercial lawyers who are experienced in the care sector and have a passion to support care providers in running efficient and compliant businesses. If you are concerned about your business’ regulatory and compliance obligations and wish to obtain expert advice, contact Neil Cook, Head of Business Services (firstname.lastname@example.org or 01202 057750).