Analysis conducted by Shakespeare Martineau reveled that CQC prosecution and fining of care homes has increased post-pandemic.
The data showed that compared to pre-pandemic (2017-2019), CQC prosecutions have increased by 50% post-pandemic (2020-2022), rising from 30 to 45.
Further data reveled that the average fine is now in excess of £550,000 compared to £160,000 pre-pandemic, amounting to a 242% increase.
These findings shouldn’t be all that surprising because the trend of the CQC has been to ramp up inspection activity as well as increase regulatory enforcement action taken against providers.
However, the longer term impacts of this type of action and the current trend could be cause for concerns for the sector as a whole.
To start, there is already a shortage of funding from local authorities, which has cascaded into poor pay for staff which has resulted in a staffing shortage because workers are finding better paying jobs in other sectors. This general increase in fine levels will only exacerbate the immense pressure that the sector is already under.
This is not to say that in certain cases fines are not warranted and should not be given out to serve as a warning to other providers that failure to comply with regulations and duties will not be tolerated. However, at Ridouts we have seen a tendency for the CQC to overexaggerate the severity of the risks they allege to be present as well as heavy reliance on unsubstantiated anonymous allegations. Such allegations should be corroborated with available documentation or the CQC conducting its own observations during inspections. This has led to some very unfair and unwarranted downgrades in ratings and disproportionate regulatory action being taken against providers. This has severe consequences for their reputation and in turn impacts the viability of their businesses.
Further, it appears that the threat of prosecution may also be looming for some providers. Based on the CQC’s growing aggressive approach to inspections, it is not incomprehensible that a similar approach may be taken when it comes to decisions on prosecutions. Again, the risk here would be that prosecutions are pursued on an insufficient evidence base, but by the time providers are able to successfully challenge such action the reputational harm will already be done.
All of this comes amidst the CQC making many changes to their inspection approach. The next year will be very telling of how the CQC manages backlash to their current approach and its ability to adapt to the sector mood and work in a cooperative and supportive manner with providers.
If you need help navigating CQC inspections or have any other concerns regarding regulatory action, Ridouts’ team of specialist solicitors is here to help. Please call us on 020 7317 0340 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.