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Hospital bosses who allow neglect and abuse could face criminal prosecution

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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New Government plans recently unveiled could see hospital and care home managers face criminal prosecution if they fail to meet national care standards.

 Bosses will not be looking at the prospect of going to prison but they could face unlimited fines. Additionally, “fit and proper” tests will become compulsory for directors of all healthcare organisations before they can be appointed. The aim of the plans is to re-build confidence in the NHS following a number of high profile scandals, including Winterbourne View and Mid-Staffordshire.

 The Care Quality Commission (CQC) will have their powers to prosecute healthcare bosses increased under the new proposals. Presently, the CQC only has the power to prosecute if they have already issued a warning notice which the healthcare provided has failed to comply with. And, since its creation in 2009, the regulator has brought about no prosecutions for care failures and fines total just £4,000.

However, if these new proposals are brought about this could all change. The Department of Health has stated that individual care bosses could face fines up to £50,000, although the Ministry of Justice is considering going even further and imposing unlimited fines. “Fit and proper” tests for directors will also become compulsory. CQC Chief Executive David Behan said that these proposals would “give people who use services greater assurance that poor care will be challenged and that they will receive safe and effective care”. The new plans would also close a loophole, currently available to care providers who fail to meet basic standards, which allows them to escape prosecution.

The new proposals therefore seek not only to hold those who fail to provide basic care to account, but also to seek to ensure that those appointed to such jobs are fit for that role with the aim of preventing failures in the first instance.

By Ruth Eardley