BBC Radio Five Live investigation reveals thousands of NHS staff have not had Criminal Records Bureau checks

Employers in the NHS have been urged to carry out background checks on all staff after it emerged that thousands of health service workers have not been vetted.

An investigation by BBC Radio Five Live last week found 68% of health trusts in the UK do not routinely run checks on staff who began working there before the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) was set up in 2002.

CRB checks have been mandatory for all new staff with access to patients in the course of their normal duties since February 2005. While trusts are able to carry out checks on workers recruited before that date, they are not required by law to do so.

Children’s charities have now urged health service employers to check all staff, prioritising those who work directly with children. But some trusts have expressed concern at the cost of funding potentially thousands of extra CRB checks. Enhanced checks currently cost £36 per applicant.

NHS Employers – the body responsible for workforce issues – said it hoped the new vetting and barring scheme for people that work with children and vulnerable adults, due to be introduced in autumn 2008, would make a difference. A spokesman said: “We hope that the new scheme will enable employers to have electronic access to continuous monitoring of their staff.”

The Department of Health said it was working with NHS Employers to develop guidance relating to staff who were employed before mandatory CRB checks were introduced.

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