Compulsory criminal record checks are to be introduced for all NHS staff with direct patient contact.
Currently, checks are only required for health service staff who work with children.
The Criminal Records Bureau checks will cover cleaners and maintenance staff as well as those with more obvious direct patient contact.
Many NHS trusts already have a policy of carrying out criminal record checks on new staff and health minister John Hutton said this measure was intended to reinforce existing good practice.
Hugh Chapman, associate director of HR at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “It is our policy that our recruitment team carry out criminal records checks on behalf of Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust and six primary care trusts across Berkshire for all new recruits into posts working with vulnerable adults, adolescents and children.
“In addition, we also check administrative staff who may be in contact with patients in the course of their duties,” he said.