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Huge Increase in CQC Prosecutions Since COVID-19

At HLTH Group, we recognise a significant increase in the Care
Quality Commission’s (CQC) use of criminal enforcement powers since the
outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a team of former CQC inspectors,
clinicians, and healthcare professionals, we work alongside CQC-specialist
solicitors to provide support for healthcare providers facing enforcement
action by the CQC.

The CQC’s Expanding Criminal Enforcement: The CQC wields various
criminal enforcement powers, allowing them to prosecute registered providers
and specific individuals, such as company directors and registered managers.
These powers include the issuance of fixed penalty notices, simple cautions,
and prosecution for numerous offenses.

The most common offenses prosecuted by the CQC encompass:

on a regulated activity without registration (Section 10 of the Health and
Social Care Act 2008).

to provide safe care and treatment, resulting in avoidable harm or significant
risk (Regulations 12 & 22 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated
activities) Regulations 2014)

to safeguard individuals from abuse or improper treatment during care and
treatment (Regulation 13 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated
activities) Regulations 2014)

A Soaring Trend in Prosecutions: Recent figures provided by
the CQC, last updated on 5th September 2023, reveal a noticeable shift in the
CQC’s prosecution approach.
Between 2016 and the end of 2020, there were 51
prosecutions resulting in fines totalling £2,347,395.15 and prosecution costs
amounting to £427,822.32. A substantial portion of these prosecutions took
place from 2018 to 2020, just before and at the beginning of the COVID-19
pandemic, with 41 prosecutions accumulating £1,552,760 in fines.

However, post-pandemic, the number of CQC prosecutions and
the imposed fines have witnessed a substantial increase. Between January 2021
and June 2023, 51 reported prosecutions have resulted in fines totalling a
substantial £8,587,946, along with prosecution costs of £631,474.07. This
signifies a remarkable 453% rise in the total fine amount from 2018-2020 and a
24.4% increase in the number of prosecutions.

The individual fines in these prosecutions between 2021 and
2023 ranged from £100 to £2,533,332.00. The varying fine amounts are attributed
to the discretion of Magistrates Courts, which can impose unlimited fines for
certain offenses, while others have capped limits.

Calculating Fines: The fines are calculated based on several
factors, including the gravity of the offense, culpability, actual harm caused,
and the company’s annual turnover or an individual’s financial circumstances.
Additionally, accepting the offense and making an early guilty plea can lead to
a reduction of up to one-third of the total fine.

What to Do if Facing a CQC Prosecution: If you are subject
to a CQC prosecution or criminal investigation, it is crucial to seek expert
compliance advice from a specialist CQC compliance team as soon as possible.
Early and measured actions in response to the investigation can help minimise
the impact or potentially prevent it from reaching the courts.

In case of prosecution, appropriate representation in court
is essential to safeguard your interests and uphold your long-standing
reputation in the health and social care sectors. This can also improve your
chances of minimising the fine and prosecution costs.

Our specialised team of CQC compliance experts work
alongside our CQC-specialist solicitor partners, and we collectively have
extensive experience in advising care providers facing criminal investigations
and prosecutions. For a no-obligation discussion with one of our CQC
specialists, contact us now at 0161 241 3163 or via our online enquiry form.
Your peace of mind and standing in the healthcare sector are our top
priorities, and we are here to support you throughout the process.