The Care Quality Commission is to bring its first ever prosecution of an NHS trust over an “alleged failure to provide safe care”.
The regulator said today that it was prosecuting Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust after a patient sustained serious injuries at a mental health unit run by the scandal-hit trust.
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The prosecution is the first time an NHS trust has been prosecuted by the CQC under the fundamental standards regulations. Prior to this action, the regulator has only used its fundamental standards to prosecute four care home providers.
The standards, which came into effect in April 2015 following the Francis report into the scandal of poor care at the former Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, were designed to set minimum, criminal, thresholds for care.
The prosecution is in relation to an incident in December 2015 when a patient sustained serious injuries during a fall from a low roof at Melbury Lodge, Royal Hampshire County Hospital.
The centre, run by Southern Health, includes an acute adult mental health ward where the fall took place. The centre also houses a specialist mother and baby perinatal mental health unit.
The trust is also facing prosecution over “other patients being exposed to a significant risk of avoidable harm”.
The case is expected to be heard later in the year by Basingstoke Magistrates’ Court and if the trust is found guilty it could face an unlimited fine. No date has yet been set for the hearing.
By law, registered providers of health and social care services – including NHS trusts – must take all reasonable steps and exercise all due diligence to ensure patients receive safe care and treatment.
In response, Julie Dawes, interim chief executive of Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “I express again our apologies to the patient involved, and the patient’s family. Since the incident the trust has made significant improvements to Melbury Lodge, investing over £1m.
“This includes climb-proof guttering to prevent a similar incident taking place, as well as comprehensive refurbishment of the interior to make the ward safer and more therapeutic for patients,” she added.
Southern Health is being prosecuted under Regulations 12(1) and 22 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014). Regulation 12 relates to preventing people from receiving unsafe care and treatment and preventing avoidable harm or risk of harm. Breach of the regulation is a criminal offence and the CQC can take action without having to issue a warning notice, under changes brought in by health secretary Jeremy Hunt as part of wider reforms of the CQC.