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HSE / CQC Liaison Agreement

The Health and Safety Commission has issued a consultation on a new liaison agreement between the Care Quality Commission, HSE and Local Authorities.

The Health and Safety Commission (HSC) has issued a consultation on a new liaison agreement between the Care Quality Commission (CQC), HSE and Local Authorities. The new agreement has been developed in response to criticism of the “regulatory gap” under current arrangements, namely the restrictiveness of HSE’s health and social care investigation policy and CQC lacking the necessary powers to act to secure justice. The purpose, as expressly set out in the draft agreement, is to help ensure that there is effective, co-ordinated and comprehensive regulation of health and safety for patients, service users, workers and members of the public.

Since April 2015, the CQC has become responsible for taking regulatory action following health and safety incidents involving service users who use health and adult social care services. This responsibility has been transferred from the HSE, which previously dealt with these health and safety prosecutions in conjunction with Local Authorities.

This means that in cases where patients and service users have been seriously harmed or die due to unsafe care, the responsibility will now fall on the CQC to take action under the fundamental standards. Both HSE and Local Authorities will continue to deal with health and safety prosecutions in cases involving employees, visitors, contractors and people not registered with the CQC. Where there is any uncertainty about jurisdiction, the relevant bodies will determine who will have primacy for any regulatory action and whether joint or parallel regulatory action will be conducted.

Up until now, CQC have been slow to prosecute, perhaps in part because they might struggle to prove cases to the necessary criminal standard but also perhaps because their powers to do so are currently more limited than they will be in the future. It is certainly possible that the changes envisaged by the new liaison agreement will result in a rise in the number of prosecutions against providers.