I joined West Yorkshire Probation Board in January 2003 after 22 years in the NHS - including 13 in OH - and left my management position in an NHS Trust hospital to set up an OH services unit from scratch.
That June, I undertook pre-employment screening on a prospective probation officer (X), who was a Hepatitis B carrier, and I wrote to the individual's specialist for further information. Upon receiving this information I then screened X fit for the proposed post.
When the HR function found a discrepancy in the applicant's application form and references in relation to sickness and absence, it asked to see the health questionnaire. I informed HR that no access could be given without the individual's consent.
Eventually, with the permission of X, I wrote to personnel giving an explanation for the absences. I also explained that X was prepared to speak to personnel about these absences, but HR declined this offer.
In July, when I overheard a conversation between members of the personnel team about accessing the individual's file, I reiterated that consent needed to be sought from X.
The following day while I was driving to a conference in horrendous driving conditions my manager rang me on my mobile to say she was going to access the form as discussed the night before. I again said I couldn't allow this to happen but she said that as OH reported to HR she had the right to see the file.
She agreed to discuss the issue with my mentor who later faxed her the Royal College of Physicians' Guidance on Ethics. I was so upset I missed my turning and went 20 miles out of my way.
Later I was informed that the HR manager had asked for the file without explaining that I had refused her access to it, and had taken it for an hour. I immediately contacted the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) as to what I should do next.
When I returned to work the following day the atmosphere was terrible. I spoke to Carol Bannister, the RCN OH adviser, and a meeting with the personnel manager was requested but didn't take place until three months later.
In the meantime my working relationship with my manager, while I tried to remain professional, continued to be strained.
I do not remember much about the meeting itself as I was too distraught and Carol did all the talking. But I was informed, without warning, that the personnel department would take responsibility for pre-employment screening from me.
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