The bosses of care homes and hospitals could be criminally prosecuted for failures in care, the government has revealed.
The measures form part of a consultation which aims to start rebuilding trust in the health and care system.
Under the new proposals directors that fail to meet the new fundamental standards of care proposed by the Francis report could face immediate action from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) including prosecution.
CQC chief executive David Behan said: “Those who run health and care services are accountable for the quality and safety of the care they provide.
“The power to prosecute… gives people who use services greater assurance that poor care will be challenged and that they will receive safe and effective care.”
Currently the CQC can only prosecute in cases where it has previously issued a warning notice and the provider has failed to comply.
The government has described this as a “loophole” that will now be addressed.
Norman Lamb, Care and Support Minister said: “Scandals like Winterbourne View and Mid-Staffs have damaged confidence in our health and care system.
“Part of our commitment to rebuilding that trust comes from making sure that people at all levels are held to account for failings when they occur.”
‘Held to account’
The government’s consultation, launched today, also proposes that directors of care homes and hospitals should be subject to a “fit-and-proper” test.
Conducted as background checks undertaken by the service provider, the tests would identify concerns about an individual’s honesty, integrity, competence and capability and include considering their past record with other providers.
In cases where a director was deemed by the CQC to be unfit, the CQC could insist upon the director’s removal.
Lamb said: “Whilst there must be a sharper focus on corporate accountability, more needs to be done to ensure those responsible for leading a care organisation are up to the job.
“I hope that providers and people who use services and their families will respond to this consultation as we look to take these proposals forward.”
The proposals are part of a wider package of changes to how CQC regulates health and social care providers.
Currently the CQC is consulting on a new specialist model to improve hospital, social care and GP inspections, which includes setting new fundamental standards of care, and publishing ratings so that patients are clear about how their hospitals, care homes or home care providers are performing on leadership, finance and, most importantly, the quality of care.