Directors of care providers would be removed by the Care Quality Commission for serious failings under government plans to improve corporate accountability for social care and health in the wake of Winterbourne View.
Registered providers would fall under a duty to ensure their board directors, trustees or governors were “fit and proper persons” to run care organisations, based on their past behaviour, competence and personal ethics, under consultative plans issued today by the Department of Health.
The CQC would be able to require providers to remove directors deemed unfit, as a condition of registration, leaving them open to prosecution if they failed to comply. This would enable the regulator to sanction directors in the event of serious care failings.
One of the criticisms levelled at the regulatory system following the Winterbourne View scandal was its inability to sanction the directors of provider Castlebeck for allowing abuse to go unchallenged at the hospital.
“The events at Winterbourne View hospital starkly highlighted the fact that some people in charge of organisations delivering health and care services do not pay sufficient attention to the safety and the quality of the care that they provide,” said care services minister Norman Lamb in the foreword to today’s consultation paper.”
“This is unacceptable. There needs to be a sharper focus on corporate accountability for failures – who let it happen, how the conditions were created that enabled it to happen and holding individuals and boards to account for that failure.”
The “fit and proper persons” test is one of a number of measures the DH and the CQC are taking to strengthen oversight of providers and corporate accountability, through changes to regulations. These include:
- Enabling the CQC to prosecute providers without having to issue them with a warning notice first, if providers breach new “fundamental standards” of care;
- Ensuring providers nominate a named director or person responsible for care quality as part of tougher registration requirements that will apply to learning disability services from this month and all services from October 2013;
- Introducing a “duty of candour” as a registration requirement, meaning providers would have to tell patients and service users about failings in their care or face prosecution;
- Replacing generalist CQC inspectors with specialist teams and introducing star ratings to measure the quality of services.