• Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust fined £1,250 for failing to apologise within a reasonable time
  • Case involved a baby who died following delays in diagnosis and missed opportunities to admit to hospital
  • Marks the first time CQC has used criminal enforcement powers for duty of candour

The Care Quality Commission has, for the first time, fined a trust for failing to comply with its duty of candour.

Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust was given a £1,250 fixed penalty notice for failing to apologise to a family within a reasonable time.

The case involved a baby boy who was admitted to Bradford Royal Infirmary in July 2016. There were delays in diagnosis and missed opportunities to admit him to hospital. He later died.

The trust treated the events as a notifiable safety incident but the family did not receive an apology until October 2016.

This is the first time the CQC has used its criminal enforcement powers against a provider for failure to comply with the duty of candour, although it has previously exercised civil enforcement powers, such as warning notices and requirement notices. 

Ted Baker, the CQC’s chief inspector of hospitals, said: “Under the duty of candour, all providers are required to be open with patients or their families when something goes wrong that appears to have caused significant harm.

“The action that we have taken against Bradford Teaching Hospitals does not relate to the care provided to this baby, but to the fact that the trust was slow to inform the family that there had been delays and missed opportunities in the treatment of their child.

”Patients or their families are entitled to the truth and to an apology as soon as practical after the incident – which didn’t happen in this case.”

A Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise and offer our sincere condolences to the family involved in this incident. We are very sorry for their sad loss.

“We recognise that despite informing the family of the notifiable incident, as required, the delay in offering an apology was unacceptable. We identified and reported this breach in the duty of candour to the CQC ourselves.

“We cooperated fully with the investigation by the CQC and have accepted the fixed penalty.

“Immediately after the breach was identified, in 2016, we amended our policy and instigated a major staff awareness campaign. We have had no breaches of the duty of candour since that time.”

The duty of candour regulations, which took effect in 2014, set out what providers need to do after a notifiable safety incident occurs. Although the CQC has the power to prosecute under the regulations, it decided a fixed penalty notice was “proportionate” in this case.

HSJ reported in August last year that the CQC was investigating United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust  for possible breach of its duty of candour following a patient death in 2017. The CQC has not made a decision on what, if any, action to take in this case.