The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the independent regulator of health and adult social care in England and is responsible for regulating a range of care services.
The CQC checks that the required standards are being met by all health and adult social care service providers through regular monitoring and inspection.
All service providers in England are required to register with the CQC if they carry out any of the regulated activities prescribed in Schedule 1 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014, unless an exemption applies.
Failure to register with the CQC when carrying out a regulated activity is a criminal offence under section 10 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008.
If you are charged with a section 10 offence, the matter can be dealt with either in the Magistrates’ Court or Crown Court. If convicted, the Court can impose an unlimited fine and/or a sentence of up to 12 months’ imprisonment.
The CQC can investigate service providers if they suspect that they have been providing a regulated activity without being registered with the CQC to do so.
It is quite common for the CQC to receive a complaint about a service provider which gives rise to a suspicion that there has been a breach of the rules.
These suspicions can often be misplaced especially if the CQC does not have a full understanding of the nature of the activities that are being provided by the service provider under investigation.
Challenging CQC Investigations
Sometimes the CQC can get their facts wrong or fail to adequately consider all of the circumstances concerning the particular activity that is being complained of.
For example, the most common form of regulated activity is personal care. However, the requirement to register with the CQC only applies when the personal care is provided in the home or living place of the person in question.
If the personal care is provided in the community, then there is no requirement to register with the CQC as this activity falls outside the scope of regulation.
Professional Legal Guidance
If the CQC suspects that an offence may have been committed by a service provider then it will write to you setting out the grounds of their suspicion.
There are usually three ways to respond to a letter received from the CQC concerning a suspected criminal offence:
- You can apply to the CQC for registration.
- You can stop carrying on the activity complained of.
- You can make written representations to the CQC about why you do not need to be registered.
It is quite common for the letter to contain a caution which means that anything you do say may be given in evidence if criminal enforcement action is taken against you.
It is therefore very important to seek immediate legal advice as soon as you are contacted by the CQC, as how you respond will affect the decision that the CQC will take going forward.
The CQC has the power to issue a fixed penalty notice or take criminal enforcement action against you if the breach is sufficiently serious. The CQC can also decide to make further enquiries to obtain more evidence and this may include carrying out an unannounced visit to your place of business.
At Monan Gozzett, we have experience of acting for clients who are under investigation by the CQC and other regulatory bodies. We understand that dealing with such investigations can often be stressful and require careful handling. We can assist with the preparation of expertly drafted written representations, should you wish to challenge any regulatory requirements imposed on you.