Last reviewed 1 October 2013

Care Services Minister Norman Lamb has indicated at the Liberal Democrat party conference that the Government intends to introduce a law to allow trusts and other healthcare providers to be prosecuted for neglect and poor care.

New powers would be introduced to allow the prosecution of healthcare providers that breach new fundamental care standards, an idea that was recommended by Robert Francis QC in his final report on the failures in care at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust. The Government’s full response to the Francis findings is due to be published this autumn, but Norman Lamb has given the clearest indication yet that the new powers will be introduced.

He told a question and answer session: “We have endless scandals but despite this there has not been a single prosecution for neglect or poor care since the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was set up. When I came into my job I had to lead on the government response to Winterbourne View (hospital scandal) and the company could get away with it.

“We are introducing new fundamental standards so that if you fail to deliver the standards you can be prosecuted straight away. The old system under the previous government was completely flawed. Now we will be able to prosecute for those awful examples of poor care.”

Robert Francis concluded in his report: “In the case of Mid Staffordshire, the regulatory regime that allowed for overlap of functions led to a tendency for regulators to assume that the identification and resolution of non-compliance was the responsibility of someone else. Effective accountability to the public demands a simpler regime of regulation.”

Earlier this year, the CQC’s consultation, A New Start: Consultation on Changes to the Way CQC Regulates, Inspects and Monitors Care, set out the changes to the regulations that would be needed to underpin a new operating model for the CQC, which involves turning new “fundamentals of care” into CQC registration requirements that can be prosecuted directly where appropriate.

The DH consultation Improving Corporate Accountability in Health and Social Care also ran alongside this consultation and described the changes to secondary regulation that would allow the regulator to carry out checks on whether directors meet its “fit and proper person” requirements, insist on their removal if they fail, and have the power to prosecute individuals where it can be established that they neglected their duty to ensure basic standards of care.

The Government said in a policy statement that, to reduce duplication and provide clarity about who has responsibility for intervening, enforcement action will be overseen by Monitor for foundation trusts, or the NHS Trust Development Authority for NHS trusts.