Responsibility for the regulation of health and social care in England has been vested in the Care Quality Commission (CQC). Elsewhere in the UK regulation of this sector has been devolved to the regional government and different arrangements apply.
Changes to the way the sector is regulated in England are shortly to come into effect as part of the Government’s response to the Francis Report of the Public Inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. The inquiry found, amongst many other issues, a ‘gap' in the regulation of health and safety issues. The CQC did not have sufficient powers to be an effective regulator and while the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) had that power issues relating to poor and unsafe care were not part of the HSE’s core remit.
To answer this criticism the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014, coming into effect on 1st April 2015, will allow the CQC to prosecute, in England, for failure to ‘deliver care and treatment in a safe way' and for some breaches of fundamental standards.
A new offence of 'ill treatment and or wilful neglect' will also come into effect during March 2015 and will apply to individuals as well as employers. The police and CPS will investigate and prosecute this offence in England and Wales.
In Scotland, it will remain unchanged. HSE will continue to apply its current health and social care investigatory policies working with the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service and the devolved health and social care scrutiny bodies that do not have the same powers as CQC.
The Scottish Government is currently consulting on proposals to introduce a new criminal offence of wilful neglect or ill-treatment in health and social care settings and the Smith Commission has made recommendations for further devolution of powers to the Scottish Parliament. In time these may result in further divergence of approach in Scotland.
There will be no immediate changes to the existing enforcement arrangements in Wales and Northern Ireland. However the Welsh Government has announced that a Bill to reform the regulation and inspection of social care in Wales will be introduced this month. Its aim is to focus the regulation of social care towards outcomes for people; it may well result in the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales acquiring additional powers to prosecute.
If you need clarification on this issue then contact the BusinessSafe Advice Service on 0844 892 2785.