The Care Quality Commission (CQC) regulate healthcare providers in England, this means their sign-off is required for someone to operate and/or manage a regulated business. They also carry out regular inspections to establish whether or not services are operating in accordance with the regulations and they have the power to impose conditions on, suspend or even cancel a provider’s licence to operate.

If the CQC inspect a service and rate it below the standard that the provider believes is accurate and fair, this can be challenged, but only on the grounds that the inspector’s report contained factual inaccuracies. Therefore, it is always worth going through the report with a fine toothcomb to ensure that nothing has been missed off, misrepresented or misunderstood.

Where the CQC have great concerns about the running of a service, one option for them, as explained in the attached article, is to suspend admissions (commonly known as an “embargo”). This may also be tied up with a further proposal regards the licence to operate e.g. potentially looking to cancel registration.

Where a formal legal step like this is taken by CQC, the provider has the right of appeal to the First Tier Tribunal. Whilst CQC are by no means infallible, it is unlikely that they will have taken such a serious step without there being genuine and serious issues with the operation of the service and this needs to be recognised if the provider intends to turn it around.

It is therefore very important that the provider engage and work with a quality consultancy service to perform an audit to get an objective and accurate picture of the operation and quality of the service. This can be used to create a clear action plan for improvement in areas where the standards have slipped. In the meantime, the appeals process can be taken forward. If the embargo can be successfully challenged, it follows that any proposal to cancel the registration of the service must also be withdrawn. 

Even if that initial application was unsuccessful, when the Tribunal hear the appeal against a proposal to cancel registration, they must look at the operation of the service on the day of the hearing (as opposed the date of the CQC inspection). This means that having had your consultants working with you to improve the service over the many weeks before the hearing, the provider should be able to demonstrate that their service is operating as it should and that the CQC’s proposal should not be adopted.

If you’re affected by any of the issues discussed in this article, please feel free to contact us to discuss your options.

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