QualitySolicitors AcklamBond were instructed by a large adult social care provider whom have several offices in Southern England. The provider had an excellent reputation within the adult social care sector as one of the "leading care providers" and it is rated as good in 5 of its 7 services. The service which is discussed herein was rated ‘good’ prior to an inspection earlier this year.
Following a comprehensive inspection by the CQC in February 2018, the CQC sent a draft report to our client and rated their service as ‘Requires Improvement’, a downgraded rating from the previous ‘good’.
The CQC assess services on 5 ‘Key Lines of Enquiry’ which focus on key areas and form the basis upon which the CQC carry out inspections. The Key Lines of Enquiry are: - are services: safe, effective, caring, responsive to peoples needs, and well-led?
Out of the 5 Key Lines of Enquiry, three were rated as 'good' and two as ‘Requires improvement’. More concerning for our client was that the CQC were alleging a breach of a Regulation contained in the Regulatory legislative framework (Health and Social Care Act 2008 (regulated activities) regulations 2014).
Our client filed the factual accuracy response to challenge the factual contents of the report and provide documentary evidence which had not been considered by the CQC during the inspection process. Despite this, the CQC upheld their comments and stated that the report would be published in the same form as the draft.
Our healthcare law team mounted a further challenge as we believed that the findings of fact maintained in the report were factually inaccurate & misleading, and that if published there would be irreversible reputational harm caused to our client. Our challenge did not have the desired affect and the CQC refused any amendments and stated that the report would be published on 3 separate occasions.
However, we persevered and eventually our challenge and the evidence provided was considered by the CQC’s Head of Inspections and further discussions took place with their involvement. This culminated in the CQC amending the report, which subsequently meant that one Key Line of Enquiry was improved from ‘Requires Improvement’ to ‘good’ and removed the alleged breach of regulations.
Overall, this increased the rating of the service to ‘good’, which is what we and our client believed was the correct rating based on the inspection findings.
Instructed Solicitor, Mr Stewart Croft comments: “It is of paramount importance that service providers have the opportunity to properly challenge what they believe is inaccurate or misleading information in an inspection report. In this case, the initial review by the CQC did not fully consider the evidence my client provided or seek clarification on issues, which led to inaccurate presumptions which could have caused significant reputational damage.” Mr Croft continued: “service providers sometimes need the legal support to be able to challenge a regulatory body, and it shows that their findings can be successfully challenged with some perseverance”.
In the adult social care sector (and likewise in other health sectors e.g. primary care), it is essential for providers to uphold an excellent reputation. Reputation of providers will affect whether contracts are awarded and whether referrals are made, and without these the providers would not have sufficient numbers of service users to run the business. The Inspection reports are the first port of call when a professional or a member of the public wishes to assess the quality of a service.
Katherine Millray, Director & Head of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department added: “this is a fantastic result and goes to show that the CQC need to engage further with providers to explore issues that arise as part of an inspection. The CQC have a duty to act in a fair, reasonable and transparent manner. QualitySolicitors AcklamBond are delighted that we have been able to preserve our client’s excellent reputation and the clients are overjoyed by the outcome!”.
Our client issued this statement followng the successful outcome:-
"We would like to thank Stewart Croft and QualitySolicitors AcklamBond for their excellent work, understanding and professionalism leading to a positive conclusion on a recent matter. The advice we received was both candid and practical. Even when matters got really stressful, we always felt that you were very sympathetic and ready to listen to our concerns and advice on the best course of action.
As every party would hope for when going into litigation, we hoped for a total support and you did not disappoint. In all instances, you were available to provide ongoing updates on the matter whenever there was any development either via phone or email. We would like to thank you for your professionalism, understanding and your guidance throughout the whole process. We are extremely happy about the outcome".
Our healthcare team are highly experienced in assisting healthcare providers challenging CQC inspections and reports. In 2016 we successfully acted for a GP practice who took legal action against the CQC for failing to carry out an independent review of all the evidence prior to publication of the ratings report and as a result,the CQC changed how they carried out their review process prior to publication of the report and which has helped healthcare professionals up and down the country. In addition we also offer advice and assistance to healthcare professionals in areas such as contract disputes, referrals to the NHSLA for dispute resolution, employment liabilities, property disputes, procurement issues, compliance issues, claims against the CCG and NHS England and judicial review proceedings.
For a no obligation chat about how we can help you contact either Katherine Millray or Stewart Croft on 01254 872272.