Compulsory criminal record checks are to be introduced for all NHS staff with direct patient contact from early next year.
Currently, checks are only required for health service staff who work with children, but the new Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) 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.
“The results of the checks will help NHS employers make safer recruitment decisions and give the public extra piece of mind,” he said.
Jim Gee, chief executive of the NHS Counter Fraud and Security Management Service, said the new checks would make it harder for new recruits to conceal criminal records when looking for employment in the health service.
“We believe these checks will help our work in reducing losses to fraud and make a safer and more secure NHS,” he said.
A recent survey of NHS employers showed a good level of support for the introduction of mandatory CRB checks.
Hugh Chapman, associate director of HR at Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, which already carries out checks on all staff, said: “It is our policy that our recruitment team carry out checks on behalf of the 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.
NHS news round-up
A new programme has been developed for NHS staff to improve the way they handle patient complaints. Managing Complaints for Service Improvement – set up by NHS University – encourages staff to be seen as more patient-centred, accessible and responsive.
The NHS receives 90,000 written complaints every year and the programme aims to give staff a more consistent approach to investigating and reporting.
Lyndy Pullan, programme manager, said: “Staff should begin to use complaints as a valuable form of feedback, rather than failure in the service.”
Human rights director
The NHS has appointed its first ever equality and human rights director to spearhead its diversity agenda. Surinder Sharma will promote the Government’s equality agenda across the health service and deliver change at a national level.
Sharma has more than 25 years experience in diversity, having worked for organisations such as the Commission for Racial Equality, BBC, Littlewoods Retail and most recently the Ford Motor Company.
Unison backs pay shake-up
Public service union Unison is to recommend a ‘yes’ vote to its health members in a ballot on the Government’s ‘Agenda for Change’ programme – the new NHS pay and conditions package due to come into effect in December.
The proposals, which will affect an estimated one million staff, are the biggest shake-up of pay and conditions since the NHS was created. If adopted, it will introduce new pay bands and harmonised terms for NHS workers.
Unison will ballot its 450,000 health members on the proposals in the next two weeks, with the results expected on 8 November.
Dave Prentis, general secretary of Unison, said at the heart of the package was a new basic minimum wage of £11,135.