Sarah Knight of Bevan Brittan represented St Anne's Community Services, a not for profit charitable organisation, in the first CQC Prosecution applying the Sentencing Council's Guideline on Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences, which took effect on 1 February 2016.
The prosecution related to a breach of Regulation 12(1) of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 following the death of a resident. These regulations came into effect on 1 April 2015 and coincided with a transfer of enforcement responsibility for health and safety incidents in the health and social care sector - from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and local authorities - to the CQC. They relate to fundamental standards of care expected of care homes and hospitals.
Prior to mitigation and an argument about aggravating factors, the range of the fine faced by the Provider under the new Guidelines was £300,000 to £1.3 million. Following successful submissions that (a) there were no aggravating features and (b) there were considerable mitigating features, the District Judge at Bradford Magistrates' Court applied discounts for mitigation, the charitable status of the Provider and an early guilty plea. The organisation was fined £190,000 and ordered to pay the CQC's costs of £16,000 and a victim surcharge of £160.
The scale of the fine, though a substantial reduction on the Guideline, shows the financial risks that Providers face under the new Health and Safety regime when the everyday operation of care services goes wrong. CQC will be pushing ahead with more Health and Safety prosecutions and it is crucial that Providers understand the benefits of taking early advice to eliminate or mitigate their exposure.