CQC Inspectors - The New `Health Traffic` Wardens

Dr Philip Dobson
By Dr Philip Dobson

Dr Dobson is Medical Director of LCS Healthcare and holds board certification under RPA 2000 as a Laser Radiation Protection Adviser.

I was reminded to jot this blog when, on Sunday last, I took my daughter to the cinema. I parked my car and dutifully bought my “Pay and Display” ticket and placed it on the dash of the car. You can imagine my horror when, after the film, we returned to the car to find a parking penalty notice attached to the windshield!! On close inspection I saw that the ticket had partly turned over (presumably by the air current as I closed the car door) so as to obscure the expiry. £60 reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days!!!!

I am sure I am not alone in suffering this type of indignity however this reminds me to let you know about some new powers which the Care Quality Commission (CQC) have been given under the new regulations which come into force on 1st October 2010.

Under the Care Standards Act 200 the enforcement powers of the CQC were somewhat limited due to the fact that in order to “punish” individuals or organisations who either broke regulations or failed to register, the CQC had to prosecute and prove to a court that there was a substantial risk to the health, life or welfare of a member of the public “beyond reasonable doubt”. This is the criminal standard of proof and quite rightly is a significant barrier. The negative side of this has been that the CQC has been reluctant to prosecute due to the standard of proof required and the possible expense of conducting such cases.

The Health and Social Care Act 2008 and the ensuing regulations have changed the position substantially in the favour of the CQC. The new regulations give a range of powers to CQC inspectors which range from “informal chats”, enforcement notices, prohibition notices and of course prosecution under the new offences, however interestingly they now have one particularly efficient method of enforcement – the “FIXED PENALTY NOTICE”.

The HSCA2008 introduces a range of offences for which the CQC are able to opt to issue a fixed penalty notice instead of prosecuting the individual or organisation. These can be issued in person or by email and the named party then has 28 days to pay the penalty notice (an admission of guilt) or risk prosecution under one of the offences listed in the HSCA2008 – with a maximum fine of up to £50,000.

Perhaps the most concerning of the Penalty Notices, in view of the CQC’s own inability to firmly establish who exactly is registerable and for what, is the offence of “Carrying on a regulated activity without being registered” (Contrary to S10(1) of the HSCA2008) which carries an on the spot (or email) penalty of £4,000! See below for full details of the new penalties.

For those of you worrying about my parking penalty notice – I appealed and by the grace of the parking Gods I was reprieved because I had actually bought the ticket. Phew!

CQC Inspectors - `Health Traffic` Wardens

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