As care provider, care worker, GP, nurse or other healthcare professional, your work centres around caring for others. However, it is important to be familiar with the many laws and regulations governing how you should work. Following scandals in the sector over recent years and high profile media coverage, there has been a marked increase in criminal investigations and prosecutions involving the health and social care sector.
If you find yourself facing an investigation, it is crucial to seek specialist legal advice at the earliest opportunity.
How can our healthcare solicitors help?
The LA specialist legal team is unique. Not only are we leading specialist solicitors for the health and social care sector, we also have a wealth of experience of police investigations, criminal law and both the Magistrates and Crown Courts. We have an in depth knowledge and understanding of the sector and the rules and legislation by which you are bound, as well extensive knowledge of criminal law and process.
This means that we can understand the work you do and we can provide you with clear advice, tailored to your case. We can also provide you with advice and representation in respect of any related matters, such as a coroner’s inquest, fitness to practise proceedings, action by CQC and so forth.
Criminal investigations may be undertaken by a variety of enforcement bodies and in respect of a number of different potential offences, for example:
Police investigations & prosecutions
The police will conduct criminal investigations and prosecute offences such as:
- Wilful neglect or ill-treatment by care worker or care provider (including directors and trustees);
- Common assault, actual bodily harm or sexual assault;
- Gross negligence or unlawful act manslaughter by an individual;
- Corporate manslaughter.
CQC investigations & prosecutions
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) leads criminal investigations and prosecutions for breaches of the Health & Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 and in respect of health and safety matters relating to service users. CQC will often consider prosecution for offences such as:
- Breach of Regulation 12 (safe care and treatment) if it believes a service user has been exposed to avoidable harm. This can be a prosecution of a Registered Provider or Registered Manager;
- Failure by a provider to have a Registered Manager;
- Failure to notify CQC of a notifiable offence.
Health and Safety Executive prosecutions
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is the lead body responsible for enforcing breaches of health and safety legislation and incidents involving staff or visitors.
Environmental Health investigations
Environmental Health Authority is responsible for environmental health matters and food safety and hygiene.
Fire authority compliance
Local fire authorities may undertake criminal investigations to enforce compliance with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Fire safety in registered services is in currently the spotlight following a number of high profile fires in care homes in recent years. See our recent blog on fire safety in care homes.
What is the process?
The circumstances of each case will be different and, depending on the nature of the suspected offence, may be approached in different ways by your local authority. For example, in the course of criminal investigations being undertaken by the police, you may be arrested. In all cases, however, we would expect that the authority would invite you to attend an interview under caution as part of their criminal investigation of the offence
If a prosecution is pursued, the hearing would be heard in either the Magistrates or Crown Court, depending on the nature of the offence.
We would be happy to discuss your individual case with you.