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CQC prosecutes Trust for breach of duty of candour

The CQC has this week prosecuted University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Foundation Trust ("the Trust") for a failing to be open and honest with a family in relation to the death of a patient and therefore breaching the statutory duty of candour.

This requirement is set out in Regulation 20 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014.

The CQC has previously fined trusts for failing to comply with the statutory duty of candour but this is the first time that a trust has been prosecuted for such a failure.

In this case the patient suffered a perforated oesophagus during an endoscopy in December and the procedure was abandoned. The patient was transferred to a ward for observations but sadly while there she collapsed and later died.

Following the operation, it was found that the Trust had not communicated what had happened with the patient’s family in an open and transparent way and it had not apologised to the family for what had happened in a timely way.

The Trust was prosecuted by the CQC and appeared in a magistrates court where it admitted the breaches. It was fined £1,600, and ordered to pay a £120 victim surcharge and £10,845.43 court costs.

What can your trust learn from this?

It is vital that your trust ensures that it has processes in place to identify quickly any possible incidents that fall within the statutory duty of candour and to follow the necessary process as quickly as possible. All staff however junior need to be aware of the process to follow and should be supported to report incidents and receive training about this.

Moderate and serious harm, deaths (where the incident and not the patient’s illness caused the death) and psychological harm likely to last over 28 days will all need to follow the statutory duty of candour process.

This involves:

  • Face to face notification-as soon as possible after the incident-providing details of the incident, details of enquiries to be made and an apology.
  • Follow up in writing confirming what has been discussed, the enquiries to be undertaken and a further apology.
  • Providing the results of the enquiries undertaken.

The CQC have shown by this case that they will prosecute where needed for breaches of the statutory duty of candour. The impact of a prosecution on a Trust will be wide ranging both reputationally and in terms of patient confidence in the process.

How can we help?

Ward Hadaway can provide advice and training on all aspects of the statutory duty of candour. Please contact Jeff Keeble or Liz Hackett for more information.

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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