The Care Quality Commission has fined Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust £2,500 for failing to comply with the duty of candour regulations. The CQC’s prosecution is a reminder to health providers – both health service bodies and other registered providers that the CQC will take action when providers fail to be open and transparent with patients or family when something goes wrong.
CQC issued two fixed penalty notices of £1,250 to the Trust because it had failed to comply with the duty of candour regulations that requires providers to be open and honest with patients or their families if there is an incident in which they suffer harm. The fixed penalty notices relate to an incident in July 2018 where a patient died after complications during childbirth. The Trust had breached two duty of candour regulations:
- Failing to notify the family as soon reasonably possible that an incident had occurred; and
- The trust did not provide the family with an account of the incident or offer an appropriate apology to them in a timely manner.
In its press statement, CQC explain that inspectors followed up directly with the Trust to understand what actions had been taken and if any were still required. The Trust was also required to evidence the steps it had taken to strengthen the processes in place to ensure compliance with the duty of candour in future.
It is now six years since the duty of candour regulations came into force but how are providers getting on with their statutory obligations? We have seen three Trusts receive fixed penalty notices for breaches of Regulation 20 of the Health and Social Care 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 – you can read our blog on earlier CQC prosecutions here.
When delivering training on the topic we had previously advised providers on our understanding of the regulator’s approach i.e. the duty arises from all known risks and consent of patients to risks did not have a bearing on whether the duty was triggered. We also emphasised the overarching wording of Regulation 20(1) “Registered persons must act in an open and transparent way… in relation to care and treatment provided…” and that it was also worth remembering that, separately, there is a professional duty of candour.
CQC’s latest regulatory action is a reminder that the duty of candour has teeth, to some extent and breach of the duty of candour has both financial and reputational consequences.
Boards should assure themselves that their policies are clear and their staff are aware of what is required, to ensure that organisations are compliant.