During CQC’s board meeting last week, figures were presented which showed that CQC enforcement actions issued to NHS trusts increased significantly. Between 2012 and 2013 CQC issued 21 enforcement actions to NHS trusts which increased to 73 enforcement actions between 2013 and 2014.
The increase in enforcement activity follows publication of last year’s Francis report, which identified how a failure of regulatory oversight had contributed to the scandal of poor care at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.
Across all the sectors CQC regulates, there was a 50% increase in the number of enforcement actions last year. CQC also increased its number of planned inspections across all sectors.
CQC’s chief executive David Behan said that the overall rise in enforcement action was due to a concerted effort to increase the number of actions, and that staff and managers felt more supported and had “greater confidence” to challenge unacceptable care.
The majority of enforcement actions took the form of warning notices. However, CQC strategy director Paul Bate indicated that once new “fundamental standards” came into force in October 2014, the use of more serious actions such as fines and prosecutions could be ramped up. He said: “Currently we have an escalation ladder, so you sort of step up [the action] but if there are things that are happening which should not happen and we have fundamental standards to set the basis in law… we should just go to the most appropriate action straightaway. So one of the things we might see in future reports is more direct to prosecutions.”