Chaos in police checks

By Robin Stride

Private doctors have been warned their business plans are at risk from a huge backlog in police Disclosure Barring Service (DBS) checks.

Some applications can take over twice the 60-day target and in London there are fears it could be mid-summer before the Metropolitan Police clears more than 68,000 applications.

Now lawyers are advising doctors and clinics to submit paperwork early to get nearer the front of the queue.

Andrew Lockhart-Mirams

Andrew Lockhart-Mirams

Andrew Lockhart-Mirams, of Lockharts Solicitors, told Independent Practitioner Today: ‘Do it as soon as you possibly can, even if, for instance, the employment process is still to be unravelled because you are waiting for references or tests. Get on and make the check.’

Martha Walker, independent adviser on Care Quality Commission (CQC) issues to the Independent Doctors Federation (IDF), said the delays could have a clinical and commercial impact on the safe and smooth running of clinics, particularly smaller ones without enough personnel to cover or shadow new staff while their DBS check was completed.

She said: ‘For members who are going through the registration procedure, this protracted delay will further extend the time it takes to gain registration and could have pot­entially disastrous effects on a new business.

‘Members who are registered with the CQC all follow robust recruitment processes, of which the DBS check only forms a part. Until the Metropolitan Police has cleared their backlog we have asked the CQC to allow new staff to start work while the DBS check is being carried out and that members may take into account a previous DBS certificate.’

She added: ‘During this time, we have also asked the CQC to allow new provider and registered manager applications to be submitted without DBS details, as the certificates will be viewed at the “fit person” interview.’

The IDF was awaiting a CQC response as we went to press.

Lockharts told clients: ‘The CQC has the power to take action against providers who do not carry out these checks as and when required, or providers who cannot evidence that they have carried out the required checks.

‘If you are applying to the CQC to register as a provider or vary an existing registration and a DBS check is required, the CQC will most likely be unwilling to deal with your application until you can provide them with a copy of your DBS check.’

The Metropolitan Police said average waiting time was currently 75 days, but 15% were done within 25 days and 45% within the 60-day target.

A police spokesman said: ‘DBS checks are not simple administrative work. Staff are making decisions about the disclosure of information that may involve a number of different police forces.

These decisions directly impact on children and vulnerable adults and those who seek to work with them. For this reason, staff require significant specialist training and supervision.’

The force is training more staff, has transferred others to assist and has set up an extra evening shift to increase the number of checks processed.