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An ongoing investigation by the Care Quality Commission into an out-of-hours and urgent care provider in east London could lead to a criminal prosecution by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Major question marks hang over the governance of the Partnership of East London Co-operatives, which on 15 April was told by the FCA that the watchdog was “minded to consider prosecution” of the provider and/or its directors.

The co-operative society is obliged by statute to submit its annual report and accounts to the FCA within seven months of the end of its financial year. But it had not done so at all for its 2018-19 and 2019-20 filings. While it had filed its 2017-18 accounts, it had only done so in November 2020 – 20 months after the year end.

In addition to this, and potentially more serious for the co-operative society’s 400-odd members made up of GPs or GP patients in the areas PELC provides services, is the prospect of the FCA cancelling the co-operative society’s registration.

Co-operative societies and Community Benefit Societies are meant to have voluntary and open membership, and be democratically controlled by their members. The FCA has concerns over both these points. This means PELC could have its registration as a co-operative society cancelled as a result, and its members lose limited liability.

Not out of the woods

It isn’t quite special measures, but NHS England has come to the view that University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay Foundation Trust again needs significant regulatory intervention.

The trust has a troubled history of care failings and regulatory intervention, including a major maternity scandal which culminated in the Kirkup Inquiry in the first half of the 2010s, and being placed in special measures in 2014.

But it was widely recognised that positive progress was made to implement the inquiry recommendations and improve services, which culminated in the trust exiting special measures in late 2015, and being rated “good” by the CQC in early 2017.

However, following multiple allegations of poor care and “cover-up” across two specialties, into which external investigations are ongoing, NHSE has stepped in again by appointing improvement director Simon Bennett to sit on the board.

Mr Bennett will be supported in his work by two clinicians, Jackie Bird, the recently departed chief nurse for NHSE’s regional directorate in the North West, and Damian Riley, who recently stood down as medical director at East Lancashire Hospitals Trust.

A “system improvement board” led by NHSE’s regional medical director, David Levy, will also oversee the provider, which includes officials from the Care Quality Commission and professional regulators, such as the General Medical Council.