The regulator for independent healthcare services in Scotland, Healthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS), has published an updated version of its Enforcement Policy which it will follow when using its enforcement powers.
In April 2017 it became law for private clinics independent of NHS Scotland with practising doctors, nurses or dentists to register with HIS.
According to the regulator, more than 100 services are now registered, with many still in process; however, HIS say that there is still a significant number who have not applied to register.
HIS has been in touch with all services to remind them to register, as enforcement action will begin over the following few months.
Kevin Freeman-Ferguson, head of service review at HIS said, “If a clinic continues to avoid registration then this is likely to result in criminal proceedings, and if found guilty the provider may face a prison sentence. But there may be a variety of reasons why a clinic may not be registered with us yet. We would urge anyone who thinks they should be registered to pick up the phone and talk to us."
Freeman-Ferguson added, “We are in the process of contacting all the clinics that appear to be wilfully avoiding registration to remind them they are breaking the law and give them a final opportunity to make an application. This is the first stage of our legal proceedings.”
The policy, published on October 12, relates to the independent healthcare services that are not registered with HIS as required by The National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978, and independent healthcare services registered under The National Health Service (Scotland) Act 1978 as amended by the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 and associated regulations.
The act states that the purpose of enforcement, up to and including prosecution, is, 'To secure compliance with legislation and minimum standards and ensure that registered providers are held to account for failures to safeguard the health, safety and welfare of service users'.
Sections of specific interest to aesthetic clinics include Part 1 – The offences in relation to unregistered providers of independent healthcare services. According to the policy, clinics that fail to register with HIS, or who pretend to be registered, could face prosecution. Successful prosecutions may lead to a maximum fine of £5,000 or maximum prison sentence of up to three months.
The policy also describes its enforcement action against clinics that are registered with HIS who do not operate to an appropriate standard.
In these circumstances, HIS will firstly work with the independent healthcare service provider to make necessary improvements. If they do not receive a satisfactory response, they may serve a Condition Notice, which sets their intention to vary, remove or impose an additional condition of registration on the service provider. They then may issue an Improvement Notice where there is evidence of a breach of Regulation(s) or conditions. This sets out their intention to cancel the independent healthcare service’s registration, unless significant improvement is demonstrated within a stated timescale. The forth step is a Cancellation of Registration Notice, where the timescale for meeting an Improvement Notice has expired without compliance.
HIS will give notice of any formal enforcement action taken to local authorities, NHS boards, Scottish Government and other relevant scrutiny bodies. This information of successful prosecutions will also be made publicly available on HIS’ website.
To read the Enforcement Policy, visit the HIS website.