New Care Quality Commission regulation – what do healthcare providers need to know?

read time: 3 mins

The restrictions imposed on visiting people in care homes, hospitals and hospices during the Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted to regulators just how vital such visits are to the wellbeing of people in these settings. 

Following a public consultation in 2023, the government has amended the Health and Social Care Act 2008 (Regulated Activities) Regulations 2014 to include a new regulation, which comes into force on 6 April 2024. This article explores the new regulation in detail, highlighting how it will benefit patients and care home residents, who it applies to and what will happen if healthcare providers do not meet the requirements.

How will the new regulation benefit patients and care home residents?

The new regulation will ensure that individuals staying in care homes, hospitals or hospices can receive visits and are supported to spend time away from those settings, if they so wish. The regulation introduces a new Care Quality Commission ‘fundamental standard’, in relation to visiting and being accompanied to appointments that health and care providers must meet. 

This regulation sets out that providers are to facilitate visits in a way that is appropriate, meets the individuals’ needs and, so far is reasonably practicable, reflects their preferences whilst having regard to the individual’s care or treatment plan. This is to include taking relevant action or putting in place any relevant precautions as necessary to ensure that the visits or accompaniments are safe. 

The regulations do not require individuals to receive visits or to be accompanied without the individual’s consent or, where the individual lacks capacity to give consent, it would not be in their best interests. In addition, the regulations do not require or enable a provider to do anything which would not be on accordance with a court or tribunal order.

Who will the new regulation apply to?

The regulation ‘applies to a registered person in respect of a relevant regulated activity carried on in a care home, hospital or hospice’. ‘Regulated activity’ means all regulated activities except:

  • Personal care.
  • Accommodation for the treatment of substance misuse and detoxification services.
  • Management of blood products and supplies.
  • Transport services.
  • Triage.
  • Remotely provided medical advice. 

Unless there are exceptional circumstances, people who:

  • Receive care or treatment which includes an overnight stay in the settings, must be facilitated to receive visits at those settings.
  • Reside in a care home, must not be discouraged from having visits outside of the care home.
  • Attend a hospital or hospice for care or treatment, not involving an overnight stay, must be enabled to be accompanied by a family member, friend or person providing support to the appointment.

What will happen if health and care providers do not meet the requirements?

The Care Quality Commission has published draft guidance for health and care providers to ensure that they are able to meet the new fundamental standard, this can be found here. If providers do not meet the new fundamental standard, the CQC can take regulatory action, including civil enforcement action against the provider where appropriate and refuse registration if providers cannot satisfy the CQC that it can and will continue to comply with the regulation. 

Whilst legislation has existed elsewhere in relation to visits, this new standard will ensure that visiting and accompanying is regulated and person-centred, with the wellbeing and wishes of individuals being taken into account. 

For more information, please contact the court of protection team.

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