Lawyers are predicting that the new social care regulator will be able to close poor care homes run by major providers more easily when it comes into force next year.
Under the new system, the Care Quality Commission will be able to close a home without applying to a magistrate first if it believes “a person will be or may be exposed to the risk of harm” rather than at “serious risk”, as is now the case.
From April, when the CQC comes into being, providers with more than one home will only be required to apply for single registration covering them all instead of registering each separately.
In practice, this means applying for cancellation of registration to stop a poor home operating would mean cancelling all its other homes.
Instead, the CQC will have the power to impose a condition on a provider’s registration, without applying to a magistrate, which means a home identified as a potential risk will cease operation immediately.
Neil Grant, a lawyer with firm Bevan Brittan, said: “The move to a single registration system is a big change. While CQC could impose a condition preventing the particular home from operating, it appears that cancellation of registration will largely be a thing of the past for for multi-site providers.”
Martin Green, chief executive of the English Community Care Association, said: “We need to be clear about the assessment of quality and clear about resource allocation from local authorities and whether it is appropriate to deliver quality. We also need to ask if they have the power to close down a care home should they also have the power to close down a hospital.”
He added that the Care Quality Commission, which merges CSCI and the Healthcare Commission, had been designed to make health and social care regulation equal.
Earlier this month, private provider Active Care Partnership, part of Southern Cross Healthcare Group, won an appeal at the Care Standards Tribunal to keep one of its homes open.
CSCI had earlier told the tribunal that lack of care at the Alton Centre in Northamptonshire had contributed to the deaths of two residents in two months.