CQC fines NHS trust £16,250 for 13 breaches of duty of candour

NHS trust fined over £16,000 for 13 duty of candour breaches following incidents of significant harm.

Overview

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust has been fined a total of £16,250 by the Care Quality Commission (‘CQC’) for failing either to be open with patients or to apologise within a reasonable period after an incident of significant harm. Representing 13 separate breaches of the statutory duty, in respect of each of which a £1,250 penalty notice was issued, the seven safety incidents took place between September 2016 and October 2017.

In detail

The CQC undertook a routine review of serious incident investigations at the trust in 2017, with the incidents in question involving medication errors, delays in diagnosis and missed opportunities to investigate a patient’s deteriorating condition. Inspectors from the CQC then went on to work with the trust, including requiring it to evidence the steps taken to strengthen the processes in place intended to ensure future compliance with the duty of candour. The fine follows the first for a duty of candour breach which was imposed on the Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust back in January.

Implications and recommendations

Understandably, the hospital has sought to stress the fact that the CQC decided not to prosecute, although the Director of Integrated Governance, Bernadette George, was quoted as saying that whilst incidents were being investigated and lessons learnt, the trust was not always sharing full details with patients and families in the way it should have done, which was simply not good enough.

The message here is relatively simple: clinicians need to continue to report any incidents internally, to be open with their patients, to involve patients in investigations and to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from such incidents so as to help trusts to comply with their statutory obligations around the duty of candour. The fine issued here will also serve as a timely – and costly – reminder to hospital boards of the sanctions which are open to the regulator in the event of failure to comply.

On a practical level, trusts could consider carrying out their own audits around notifiable incidents to ensure that their internal systems and processes are fit for purpose in this regard.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about our update, please contact Richard Jolly, Partner, on 0151 242 7954, or richard.jolly@weightmans.com

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