Adult social care regulator to get enhanced powers

Writes Maria Ahmed

The new regulator for health and adult social care for England will have strengthened enforcement powers over organisations where service users are being put at risk, the government announced yesterday.

The Care Quality Commission, a forthcoming merger of the Commission for Social Care Inspection, the Healthcare Commission and the Mental Health Act Commission, will extend existing enforcement powers over local authorities, independent providers and the NHS.

The commission will be able to close organisations, issue statutory warning notices requiring improvement within a specified time and impose fines in lieu of prosecution. It could also increase frequency of inspection including unannounced spot checks where services are not up to standard.

The CSCI, which has previously called for strengthened enforcement powers, welcomed the measures which were outlined in the Department of Health’s reponse to a consultation on the regulator’s role.

Currently, the CSCI must apply to a magistrate to urgently close a service or restrict provision where there is a serious and immediate risk to service users. Below this threshold, providers can appeal to the Care Standards Tribunal over proposed closures or restrictions, meaning enforcement action may not take effect for up to a number of months.

While the new commission will not be responsible for ensuring continuity of care for service users and patients where a site was closed, it would be expected to “liaise” with local authorities to consider the impact of the closure, the government said.

The DH also pledged the creation of a single registration system for providers subject to parliamentary approval and said details would be confirmed following a seperate consultation.

The new commission will be established in October next year and take responsibility for the regulation of of health and adult social care from April 2009.

The powers of the commission will be included in the new health and social care bill due to be introduced in parliament this year.

More information

Department of Health reponse to consultation on health and adult social care regulator

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