- Care Quality Commission wins appeal to stop private care provider increasing the number of beds for people with learning difficulties
- First tier tribunal ruled in favour of watchdog trying to stop provider setting up a “campus site” of services
- But the decision has sparked fears investors will not want to set up new units at a time when more community provision is needed
The care quality watchdog has won an appeal to stop a private care provider increasing the number of beds for people with learning disabilities.
The tribunal ruling has sparked fears that investors will not want to expand or set up units for fear of them being refused registration at a time when more community beds are needed to move people with learning difficulties and autism out of hospital.
A first tier tribunal ruled in favour of the Care Quality Commission after Care Management Group appealed its decision to refuse its application to vary a condition on its registration.
CMG applied in April last year to increase the maximum number of people at its Cherry Tree service in Essex from seven to 10.
But the watchdog refused because it said the application did not show how it would comply with the CQC’s Registering the Right Support policy guidance to not develop campus site services.
It said that because the Cherry Tree service was on a campus site known as Lilliputs, including two other CQC registered services it failed to meet the specification.
CMG appealed the decision and a care standards tribunal panel heard the case in June and July before making its decision on 14 August.
Tribunal Judge, Siobhan Goodrich, said the CQC’s decision was “plainly in accordance with the law” and necessary to protect the health of service users.
But health and care legal expert and director of Ridouts Solicitors, Paul Ridout, told HSJ the case was likely to set a precedent which could drive investors away.
Mr Ridout warned that by refusing units registration it will make firms planning to invest in setting up new beds think twice because small units can be much more difficult and expensive to staff than large units.
He added: “What’s quite clear is the further and further we go down the line people who don’t present things it [the CQC] likes are to find it more and more difficult to get registered.
“The tribunal has endorsed the statutory scheme [Registering the Right Support].
“It’s definitely setting a precedent and the indication is people are going to have to look very carefully at some of the detail of this.
“They have given some indication of what’s likely to be registerable, but if I was an investor I would want to know the investment would get a result.”
Mr Ridouts warning comes weeks after the flagship Transforming Care Programme to move people with learning difficulties out of hospital has been branded a “failure” by a former minister, Norman Lamb.
He fears not enough has been done to set up new community services to support patients being discharged from hospital.
Mr Ridout said the CQC must set out more guidance saying what they will register, otherwise there was a risk there will not be enough support to move people with learning disabilities back into the community.
He added: “This will be taken by the sector as a strong indication to what is and is not going to happen.
“If the CQC are to develop what it wants it will have to say something a lot more detailed about what’s acceptable and address how that’s going to be affordable.”
CMG has 28 days to appeal the tribunal decision.
Tribunal decision and CQC statement