Opposition is mounting against a scheme aimed at protecting vulnerable patients that could see nurses banned from practising even if they have been formally cleared of any wrongdoing.
Under the vetting and barring scheme, trusts will be unable to employ any nurse thought to pose a risk to children or vulnerable adults by the Independent Safeguarding Authority.
But concerns are being raised that ISA will be able to over-rule the decisions of professional regulators such as the Nursing and Midwifery Council, as well as its overseeing body, the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.
CHRE chief executive Harry Cayton said the scheme was overly “punitive” as draft guidelines suggested ISA would make no allowances for one-off mistakes.
He said: “If we’re saying that we can’t make one error or one wrongdoing, there will hardly be anybody left.
“I don’t agree with the idea that a single instance of dishonesty which has been dealt with by another course is sufficient to stop people practising as a health professional.”
The ISA guidelines, due to be enforced from November 2010, are also being criticised as too intrusive.
Characteristics that could trigger removal from the register include the “belief that one is entitled to or deserves sex”, “severe emotional loneliness” and “links with anti-social peers and/or associates”.
Those thought to have an “impulsive, chaotic, unstable lifestyle” could also be removed.
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “When you look at these behaviours, they’re very subjective and very difficult to judge everyone by.”
The list, developed by criminal psychologists as a way of detecting paedophiles, was an inappropriate way of assessing the majority of nurses, she said.
Unison is heading a coalition of trade unions lobbying for changes to the scheme.
They oppose the £64 cost of registering with ISA, on top of NMC registration fees, and what they see as the lack of a clear appeal mechanism.
A Department of Health spokesman said: “The new vetting and barring scheme is a measure designed to help prevent those who are known to be unsuitable from gaining access to children and vulnerable adults through their work in the NHS.