It was recently reported that the Care Quality Commission (CQC) prosecuted a woman who had been running a domiciliary care agency and providing the regulated activity of ‘personal care’ without CQC registration.
It is a criminal offence to carry out a regulated activity without being registered with the CQC under Section 10(1) of the Health and Social Care Act 2008. This offence can be dealt with by the Magistrates or Crown Court and if found guilty, the court can impose an unlimited fine and/or a sentence of up to 12 months imprisonment.
In this case, it is reported that the defendant pleaded ‘guilty’ to the Section 10 offence and was fined £1,500 by the Magistrates Court and ordered to pay the CQC’s prosecution costs of £10,380.91 plus a victim surcharge of £170.
The CQC reportedly became aware of the defendant’s company after receiving feedback from a relative of a person using the company. This instigated a visit to the company’s premises by the CQC, at which the CQC found that the company was wrongly advertising that it was approved by the CQC. The company reportedly had 23 staff and was providing personal care to around seven people.
It is understood that the company has since applied for CQC registration and is operating legally.
The CQC’s deputy chief inspector of registration, Joyce Frederick, stated in response to this case:
“The registration process is important to appropriately assess services before they care for people. Services are then monitored and inspected to ensure that they continue to meet standards that people should be able to expect."
“Unregistered services operate without oversight, putting people at risk of harm."
“Monitoring of domiciliary care agencies is especially important, as people who receive care in their own homes can be particularly vulnerable because of their circumstances."
“When we find providers operating illegally, we do not hesitate to act to protect people.”
This case demonstrates the importance of determining whether you require registration with the CQC and the consequences of failing to do so. Where a provider is unsure whether they fall within the scope of CQC registration, it is vital that they obtain specialist legal advice to confirm their position before undertaking any potential regulated activity and in order to protect themselves from any unnecessary and potentially damaging criminal enforcement action by the CQC.
In recent years, statistics show that the CQC are taking a much more proactive approach to prosecuting unregistered providers. This case is just one example of a prosecution, however, there have been many more and in some cases, the financial penalties are much higher.
Whilst the defendant in this case did not receive a term of imprisonment, this is still within the court’s sentencing powers and is a realistic possibility for anyone who knowingly continues to carry out regulated activities, such as personal care, without registration over a prolonged period of time with no regard to the requirement to register with the CQC.
In order to reduce the likelihood of any criminal prosecution by the CQC, it is essential that providers ensure that they are appropriately registered with the CQC before carrying out any regulated activities. Where a provider has not done so, it is vital that they seek to remedy this immediately and cease all regulated activities pending a successful application for registration with the CQC. In the meantime, any responses to the CQC need to be carefully considered to avoid prejudicing a provider’s position further and to mitigate any potential action.
If you require specialist advice about the scope of your CQC registration, or you are facing a criminal investigation or prosecution by the CQC, we have a team of experienced CQC solicitors who would be happy to assist you. Call our specialist CQC solicitors now on 0161 696 6250.