Care Quality Commission
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Tough new powers for new health and adult social care watchdog

Tough new powers for new health and adult social care watchdog

CARE QUALITY COMMISSION News Release (PR 09) issued by COI News Distribution Service on 31 March 2009

The Care Quality Commission has published details of the tough new enforcement powers that will help it protect the health, safety and welfare of people who use health and adult social care services, and to improve the quality of these services.

The new regulator of health, mental health and adult social care will be able to draw on a wider range of powers than its predecessor regulators to help it achieve its aim of being a tough but fair regulator. CQC has new powers to issue warning notices and penalty notices and in extreme circumstances to suspend or cancel the registration of organisations who do not meet essential standards of quality.

CQC's enforcement policy has been widely consulted on. The overwhelming majority of those who took part in the consultation agreed with CQC's overall approach to enforcement.

CQC's approach will be that any action it takes will be proportionate to the risks posed; it aims to be consistent in applying the principles across all types of health and adult social care; and it will be transparent, making sure that providers of services, managers and the public understand what is expected of people who run services and what they should expect from CQC.

The new regulator also promises to coordinate its work with other regulators and to follow up any enforcement work in a timely fashion.

CQC Chief Executive Cynthia Bower said: "The ultimate purpose of enforcement is to bring about improvements for people who use services. We intend to take a firm but fair approach to enforcement and when we take enforcement action we will always follow up that action to make sure that improvements are made.

"While we will be using a common set of principles for enforcement, we accept that different approaches are needed in different circumstances."

Alongside the policy, CQC has set out nine priority actions that address points made as part of the consultation. These include:
* ensuring that there is a consistent approach to the implementation of the policy across different parts of the country and across different sectors
* ensuring CQC encourages improvement across sectors, rather than focusing exclusively on responding to failure
* ensuring that the experience and needs of service users are given particular emphasis in enforcement decisions
* clarifying how CQC will follow up enforcement action.

Under the Health and Social Care Act 2008, the Care Quality Commission has a number of new enforcement powers to deal with underperforming services - to inspect and investigate, to issue a statutory warning notice, to issue a financial penalty notice in lieu of prosecution and, in the most serious cases, to prosecute or suspend registration. In the most serious cases, the Commission can prosecute or cancel registration.

If we take enforcement action against an NHS provider over healthcare associated infection during 2009/10, we will use the powers in the Health and Social Care Act 2008. For all other purposes, during 2009/10 we will use the same powers and enforcement frameworks that the Healthcare Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection use now. From 2010 the full range of enforcement powers under the 2008 Act will be extended to all registered health and adult social care providers.

CQC's approach will focus on those providers whose activities cause, or risk causing, serious harm to people using services. We will act in the best interests of people who use services and their families and carers, balancing the consequences for these people of taking enforcement action, against the risk of taking no action.

Notes for editors
1.The Care Quality Commission was established by the Health and Social Care Act 2008 to regulate the quality of health and adult social care and look after the interests of people detained under the Mental Health Act. It will bring together the Commission for Social Care Inspection, the Healthcare Commission and the Mental Health Act Commission. The Care Quality Commission became a legal entity on 1 October 2008 and takes up its responsibilities for the quality of health and adult social care on 1 April 2009.

2. The Enforcement Policy, priorities for action and details of consultation responses will be available on the CQC web site http://www.cqc.org.uk

3. For further information, please contact Alan Pickstock on 020 7633 4138 or Jill Morrell on 020 7633 4163. From Wednesday 1 April please call 020 7448 9401.

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