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Care watchdog 'needs more legal powers'

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A proposal in the Francis report could make it easier for the Care Quality Commission to prosecute hospitals and care homes - but it would have to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that they had breached standards, lawyers have warned.

Health reporting HSJ and LGC logo

The long-awaited report on NHS failings in Mid Staffordshire recommended that the CQC takes on powers from the Health and Safety Executive to prosecute cases raising health and safety issues. It also said the watchdog should be given strengthened powers to prosecute for breach of standards.

But lawyers told LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal that to use criminal sanctions the CQC would have to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that standards had been breached. Most of the CQC’s current sanctions use a civil law “balance of probabilities” test.

HSJ understands the CQC regularly receives challenges from organisations’ legal advisers to the factual accuracy of its inspection judgements from trusts and social care providers. A recurring complaint is the reliance on a small, randomly selected group of patients and staff from which to draw conclusions on quality.

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