• Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust faces CQC prosecution 
  • Follows 2016 incident where patient fell from roof of one of its wards in Swindon
  • Is CQC’s third prosecution of NHS trust for breach of fundamental standards

The Care Quality Commission is prosecuting an NHS trust for allegedly failing to provide safe care to one of its patients.

Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust was due to appear for a preliminary hearing at Bath magistrates’ court today, regarding an incident where a patient sustained serious injuries falling from the roof of the trust’s Applewood ward in Swindon in 2016. 

This is the third prosecution of an NHS trust for a breach of the fundamental standards brought in following the Mid Staffordshire care scandal. All of the prosecutions have been against mental health trusts, and two of them involve patients falling from roofs. 

In a statement, published today, the CQC said the trust had been called to “answer an allegation that it failed to provide safe care and treatment resulting in avoidable harm to a patient” under regulation 12 of the Health and Social Care Act.

A plea hearing will take place at a later date. 

In December, the CQC rated the trust “requires improvement” overall and “inadequate” for its learning disability and autism wards. 

The CQC’s first prosecution for breach of the fundamental standards took place in 2017. Southern Health Foundation Trust was fined £125,000 and told to pay £36,000 in costs after a patient under its care fell from one of its buildings. 

Sussex Partnership Foundation Trust faces an unlimited fine after pleading guilty in March to failing to provide safe care to a 19-year-old who died under its care.

The CQC has toughened its approach to providers in recent months and, for the first time, has targeted an individual for prosecution for being complicit in a breach of the fundamental standards by the care home they operated. The decision revealed a new route for the regulator to prosecute NHS directors individually for fundamental standards failings.

Meanwhile, in January, Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust was fined £1,250 for failing to follow the duty of candour regulations – a first-of-its-kind penalty for the watchdog. 

In November, new CQC chief executive Ian Trenholm told HSJ he was prepared to pursue NHS trusts for prosecution, saying: “I can’t excuse unsafe care. If we think a provider is unsafe, we have got to call it out and in a number of cases we will take enforcement action.”

However, the regulator has repeatedly stressed prosecutions will be rare and for the very worst cases of poor care.