CQC increasing the use of civil and criminal enforcement powers
By Nicola Radcliffe, Royds Withy King
In April 2015, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) assumed responsibility for prosecuting providers for all health and safety related incidents. Four years on, the rise in prosecutions of health and social care providers by CQC is a clear trend.
CQC’s 2018/19 data shows that, somewhat surprisingly, CQC enforcement actions are down from the previous year. There is an almost 4% drop in overall enforcement actions from 2,283 in 2017/18 to 2,206 in 2018/19.
However, a closer look at the CQC data shows that although CQC issued almost 20% fewer warning notices in 2018/19 compared to the previous year, it has instead been increasing the use of their civil and criminal enforcement powers. This is evidenced by a rise of 16% in civil and 33% in criminal enforcement actions. Criminal actions include prosecutions, cautions and fixed penalty notices. There were a total of 940 civil and criminal cases in 2017/2018, but this rose by a fifth to 1,117 in 2018/19.
For example, CQC recently prosecuted Hillgreen Care Limited for failing in its duty to protect people in its care – specifically for exposing them to the risk of sexual abuse.
The care home provider was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay CQC’s costs of £141,000.
So what does this mean for providers? CQC appear to be substituting more traditional enforcement methods for civil and criminal sanctions. In the event of a threatened criminal investigation or threatened fine, you should take legal advice at the earliest opportunity, preferably from lawyers who know the sector, to help you through the process. It may be possible to make written representations, often within very tight timescales, in order to prevent the prosecution being escalated. We have seen this being used as an alternative to issuing a warning notice.
You should consider all aspects including the risk of reputational harm and seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity to actively manage the situation and get the best outcome.
If you have any questions or require assistance please contact Nicola Radcliffe at firstname.lastname@example.org.