The Legal 500 is positioned as the ‘client’s guide to the best law firms’ because it is underpinned by client feedback and insight about how a firm and its lawyers work. It’s an important benchmark, which celebrates our team, allows us to build on success and strive for continuous improvement.

The Legal 500 rankings for 2022 – highlighting the practice area teams who are providing the highest quality legal advice – feature Pannone Corporate in 15 areas of law, moving up in two corporate & commercial, and commercial property.

The rankings include Tier 1 listings for our contentious trusts and probate, media and entertainment, and debt recovery teams. As well as the teams’ success, three people were named in the Hall of Fame, the firm had six namechecks for ‘leading individuals’, two ‘next generation partners’ and four mentions for ‘rising stars.’

Beyond the numbers and fantastic recognition in the rankings, we’re proud to see all the feedback from clients. Here’s what they said:

 

Contentious trusts & probate

“What sets them apart is their ability to combine their knowledge of the law, the softer skills of client care and an ability to be direct. The clients I have referred to them are by the nature of the specialism in a highly emotional state and every one of them has been gushing in their praise of the work done by this team.”

 

Debt recovery 

“An engaging, tenacious team who are practical and efficient in what they do. They have worked with us and our functions to provide a seamless recovery service to suit our business needs.”

 

Media & entertainment

“Liaison with clients takes on a personal form and the relevant legal staff do not need reminding about issues. They keep in touch.”

 

Employment 

“Responsive, accessible and commercial practitioners who work with us, as the client, to arrive at the right outcomes for our business.”

 

Health & safety

“A new team but one with excellent experience and technical expertise with a dynamic can-do approach and a personable demeanour.”

 

Intellectual property

“…amazing from our first meeting right to the conclusion of my case, our first meeting gave me hope in a situation which I had long since deemed a lost cause… extremely empathetic to my situation and secured a settlement against a formidable adversary.”

 

IT & telecoms

“Attentive, personal and always available for advice and guidance.”  

 

Professional negligence

“Highly specialised firm with a strong track record in claimant professional negligence work.”’

 

Commercial litigation

“Pannone Corporate has lawyers at the top of their respective disciplines and a client base to match. Customer service is a key ethos at the firm with a high degree of partner involvement ensuring the client gets the service it needs. Electronic document management and searching ensures that key documents are identified early in the case.”

 

Corporate & commercial

“…adaptive and pragmatic in their guidance and advice. We completed three transactions with them and found them to be sensibly priced and adaptive in their approach to the size and scale of due diligence required.”

 

Property litigation

“Pannone Corporate strikes an excellent balance: they have the big-firm capacity to handle large and complex cases, but the small-firm responsiveness and personal touch. They have the flexibility and skills to manage cases that cross between different fields, for example real estate litigation that raises company law, insolvency or property damage issues.”

 

Commercial property

“The approach of Pannone and their staff is very much aligned to our values, what is important to us and the way we like to operate, Pannone recognise this and it’s reflected in the service they provide. It’s important when dealing with legal matters that a firm has the ability to tailor its service to work in partnership with its clients, take time to understand our objectives, the way we operate and therefore offer a more bespoke service to deliver the right outcomes. I feel that this is a specific strength of Pannone.”

 

Insolvency & corporate recovery 

“The team are always ready to help and have found innovative solutions to technical problems.”

 

Construction 

“All of the partners feel like extended members of the in-house team. They are flexible and accommodating.”

 

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As part of the launch of our annual Care Report, barrister, Jonathan Landau, looks in more detail at the CQC’s new strategy and the likely consequences. 

The care sector is an integral part of the UK’s societal landscape – both in economic terms and the number of vulnerable people it services. With an ageing population – with estimates suggesting a 36% growth in the number of people aged over 85 by 2025 – it’s clear that the sector will only grow in prominence over the coming years. 

The regulatory structure that sits around the sector has been governed by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) since 2009 when the external body was created to regulate and monitor health and social care services in England, taking over the roles and responsibilities of the Healthcare Commission, Commission for Social Care Inspection and Mental Health Act Commission. In bringing together these three predecessor organisations it was (and remains) the CQC’s stated aim to ensure that, “health and social care services provide people with safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care.”

Initially the CQC inspected and monitored registered care providers in accordance with 16 ‘essential standards’ of quality and safety. However in the years that followed its creation there was, both within the CQC and the wider industry, a perceived lack of understanding as to how the essential standards were applied and interpreted in practice, prompting new ‘fundamental standards of care’ in 2015. To assist in enforcing the required standards, the CQC was given new powers, transforming it from an inspection and monitoring organisation into a regulator with teeth, including not only civil enforcement powers, but also the ability to prosecute those who had failed to meet those required standards.

Roll on six years and the role of the CQC remains a great source of debate. A global pandemic has made a seismic change to the way in which the CQC has pursued its objectives, and earlier this year it introduced a new strategy ‘for the changing world of health and social care’. The aim of the strategy, published in May 2021, is to strengthen the CQC’s commitment to deliver its purpose.

The CQC claims that its aims and role as a regulator won’t change – but how it works will be different. The strategy is based on four themes:

People and communities

Regulation that’s driven by people’s needs and experiences, focusing on

what’s important to people and communities when they access, use and move between services.

Smarter regulation

Smarter, more dynamic and flexible regulation that provides up-to-date and high-quality information and ratings, easier ways of working with the CQC and a more proportionate response.

Safety through learning

Regulating for stronger safety cultures across health and care, prioritising

learning and improvement and collaborating to value everyone’s perspectives.

Accelerating improvement

Enabling health and care services and local systems to access support to help improve the quality of care where it’s needed most.

The ‘smarter regulation’ theme is likely to have the biggest impact on providers, in terms of how they are inspected and rated. There will be a move away from relying chiefly on comprehensive on-site inspections. Instead, the CQC will develop continuous insight and monitoring methodologies. It anticipates that this will enable inspectors to spend more time speaking with people when on site rather than looking at paperwork.

The CQC also plans to develop innovative ways of analysing data and using AI to make decisions. Ratings will be more dynamic and won’t require an inspection for a change in rating.

All of this presents both risks and opportunities. In terms of risks, the validity of the CQC’s judgements will only be as robust as the systems it uses and the data it obtains. Providers, their advisors, and representative bodies will need to scrutinise the methodologies as they develop and quickly raise concerns. It’s likely that AI, for example, will pose some difficulties, with the potential for some very uncomfortable – even discriminatory – decisions for the CQC. Providers will also need to advocate for a fair system of challenging any decisions, as it seems unlikely that the factual accuracy correction procedure will not be available for such a dynamic regulatory scheme. That is particularly important if the CQC is obtaining information from sources it cannot itself verify and if it is making decisions on an AI (read automated) basis.

In terms of opportunities, providers that develop good relationships with stakeholders, and who invest time in understanding the CQC’s methodologies, will be well-placed to achieve good ratings and may benefit from lighter touch regulation. The more developed the CQC’s methodologies are, the easier it will be for providers to ensure that they can provide the evidence to satisfy the independent regulator.  

Currently, the CQC is targeting services with which it has concerns. In many cases, it does not have concerns about homes with lower ratings because of the improvements they have made. That leaves them stuck on lower ratings, because the CQC is not re-inspecting them. The ability for ratings to improve quickly is therefore very welcome.  

The themes of the new strategy are laudable, but it is inevitable that there will be unintended consequences and teething problems as the methodologies develop. Case associations and providers’ trusted advisors will be well-placed to keep them informed as the detail emerges.

Jonathan Landau is a barrister at 5 Essex Court. He has particular expertise in inquests and healthcare regulation. Joanthan is regularly instructed in relation to high profile Article 2 and jury inquests, often in the context of media coverage or regulatory investigations. He advises in respect of a broad range of healthcare regulatory matters including all levels of CQC and Ofsted enforcement, safeguarding investigations, commissioning disputes, contract monitoring, and mental capacity.

 

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Whistleblowing in the UK’s care sector rose to its highest recorded level in 2020, driven by health and safety concerns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The number of whistleblowing complaints made to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has increased year-on-year since 2015, with a 43% rise between 2019 and 2020 – a total of 14,508 enquiries were received last year.

The figures obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to the CQC – conducted as part of an annual Care Report by Pannone Corporate – also show that ‘concern’ enquiries increased by 39% between 2015 and 2020. However, the number of safeguarding complaints fell to its lowest level last year to 25,847, driven in large part due to a reclassification of abuse notifications in March 2018 and an increase in providers notifying their local authorities in the first instance rather than the CQC.

Bill Dunkerley, regulatory lawyer and director at law firm, Pannone Corporate, commented: “The global pandemic has had a profound effect on the care sector, touching every facet of the industry – whether that’s financially, operationally, or from a corporate governance perspective. Prior to 2020, the word ‘pandemic’ was unlikely to be considered as anything more than a theoretical risk. However, events since March last year, and the imposition of the first national lockdown in the UK, have demonstrated that providers must be prepared for all eventualities and risks.”

He continued: “In the context of the last 18 months, it comes as little surprise that the number of whistleblowing enquiries rose to its highest recorded level in 2020. In general terms, the majority of complaints in the UK relate to health and safety matters. It’s therefore reasonable to assume that the increase in complaints from 2019 to 2020 were related to the coronavirus, with safety concerns around COVID-19 extremely likely to have played a role in these figures.”

The Care Report 2021 shows that regulatory interventions rose by 109% between 2016 and 2019, understandably falling in 2020 due to a seismic change in how the CQC conducted itself as a result of COVID-19. The rise in interventions mirrors the number of enforcement actions carried out by the CQC, which revealed an 87% increase since 2014/15 in its latest annual report.

Dunkerley said: “In light of the increasing use of enforcement action by the CQC, as well as the apparent realisation of the intention to prosecute more cases, it’s imperative that service providers review their procedures, systems and address risk areas in anticipation of inspection or intervention. This includes assessing areas of their operation requiring immediate improvement; undertaking pro-active audits of risk areas and implementing remedial or control measures where appropriate; and responding to near misses and learning from them to prevent a recurrence.”

He added: “The last 12 months have had a particular impact on the CQC, which has had to respond to the novel challenges presented, as well as clarify its own role in regulating providers in light of recent criticisms. When you consider that people are also more alive to potential issues of concern, as well as becoming more aware of the CQC’s role as regulator and its power to take enforcement action in response to issues of concern, then we are likely to see considerable change in the care sector over the course of the next 12 months as providers and the CQC adapt.”

To read the report in full, click here

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The Building Safety Bill was introduced to Parliament on 5 July by Housing Minister Robert Jenrick MP.

Although the headline proposals contained within the Bill have been known for some time, its formal introduction marks a significant – and crucial – moment in its development. The draft is not only voluminous (running to 218 pages), but also seeks to fundamentally revise the current system of building safety and regulation, with the Government confirming that it intends the Bill will “create lasting generational change”in terms of how buildings are designed, constructed and maintained.

The Bill is incredibly wide-ranging in its proposed scope and extent, but what are the key changes suggested?

A ‘Golden Thread’ of Information

A key objective of the Bill is to establish a ‘Golden Thread’ of information to identify at every stage of a residential building’s lifetime, from planning and design through to completion and occupation, who is responsible for ensuring safety standards, and for managing potential risks.

In general terms, the Bill proposes that the person or entity which creates a potential risk should, as far as possible, also be responsible for managing that risk.

To help the passage of information between duty holders, the current Building Act will be amended to introduce a new ‘Gateway’ regime. Each gateway is intended to act as a ‘hard stop’ with compliance and appropriate sign-off/regulatory approval being required before the next development stage is able to commence.

To assist in retaining the Golden Thread of information following completion, and to act as an identifiable point of liaison for residents, the Bill will establish an Accountable Person for all higher risk buildings, being those over 18m/ seven storeys in height and which contain at least two residential units. The Accountable Person may be an individual or corporate entity. Once appointed, the Accountable Person must apply to the Building Safety Regulator for a Building Assurance Certificate, as confirmation that they are complying with their statutory obligations and must manage the ‘golden thread’ of information.

In addition, the Accountable Person must also appoint a Building Safety Manager (before occupation in relation to higher-risk buildings) to assist them with the day-to-day management of safety within the building.

The Building Safety Regulator must be notified of the appointment of the Building Safety Manager and will have the power to veto their appointment if it is not satisfied that they have the relevant skills, knowledge, and experience to discharge their responsibilities.

Building Safety Regulator

The Bill proposes extensive and wide-ranging powers for the new Building Safety Regulator, including the ability to investigate and prosecute those who fail to meet the new standards and requirements. Where corporate offences are found to have been committed with the consent, connivance or neglect of directors or managers, then those individuals will also be liable to prosecution in addition to the corporate entity. The Regulator will comprise both resident representatives and industry experts.

In addition, the Bill permits the Building Safety Regulator to appoint a Special Measures Manager to replace the Accountable Person or Building Safety Manager, where serious failures endangering the life of residents are identified.

Mirroring existing powers of the Health and Safety Executive, the Building Safety Regulator will also be able to issue compliance notices, which will require duty holders to rectify non-compliance issues by a specified date. In addition, the Regulator will have the ability to issue stop notices during the design and construction phase, mandating the stoppage of work until non-compliances have been addressed. Failure to comply with either type of notice will be an offence, punishable by a custodial sentence of up to two years for individuals, and/ or an unlimited fine for corporate entities.

Peter Baker, Chief Inspector of Buildings within the Health and Safety Executive, has said of the Bill’s introduction that it, “will give HSE the tools to deliver its important role as the Building Safety Regulator and is an important step in setting out what will be expected of future duty holders”.

He continued: “Everyone involved in higher risk buildings from design, construction and day-to-day operations will manage and control building safety in a way that is proportionate to the risks. This will ensure these buildings are safer for those who live in them, and they have a stronger voice. I encourage duty holders to use the Bill’s introduction in preparation for the new, more rigorous regulatory regime.

“The Building Safety Regulator will continue to work with industry and others to deliver the new building safety regime to ensure that residents of higher risk buildings are safe, and feel safe, in their homes now and in the future.”

New Homes Ombudsman

The Bill also proposes the establishment of a New Homes Ombudsman scheme, to receive complaints from the owners of new build homes and to help hold developers to account. The Ombudsman will be able to impose sanctions on developers who breach requirements, although an appeals procedure will also be available.

However, unlike other Ombudsman services, the Bill mandates that developers become, and remain, members of the new scheme.

Regulation of Construction Products

The Bill proposes to regulate construction products placed for sale on the UK market, through the concept of ‘safety critical products’ and their inclusion on a statutory list. The Bill also contains provision for future regulations to be introduced to prohibit the supply or marketing of products which are unsafe.

Where products do not fall under an existing regulatory regime and are not included on the statutory list, the Bill enables regulations to be created which will require manufacturers to ensure that the products they supply are safe, with breach resulting in prosecution.

Conclusion

The draft Bill has a long way to go before it receives Royal Assent. Given that there is little time for further discussion before the start of the summer recess at the end of July, the majority of discussions will likely take place from the autumn. Thereafter, it is unlikely that the Bill will come fully into force much before summer 2022.

Whilst it is hoped that the Bill will be able to be enacted without significant amendments, to the benefit of all stakeholders and residents, it is not expected to have an entirely smooth transition through Parliament. For example, it is anticipated that substantial amendments will be proposed by the opposition and rebellious Conservative backbenchers, especially in relation to the redress available to leaseholders within unsafe buildings.

If you would like more information on the Building Safety Bill, contact regulatory director, Bill Dunkerley, on Bill.Dunkerley@pannonecorporate-com.stackstaging.com or call 07920 237681.

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