The Royal College of Nursing has welcomed government plans to scale back a controversial vetting and barring scheme it feared could breach nurses’ human rights.
Home secretary Theresa May announced this morning that the “draconian” scheme – introduced last October to protect children and vulnerable adults – was being halted to allow it to be “fundamentally remodelled”.
Nursing Timesrevealed last week that the RCN had written to the home secretary giving formal notice of a judicial review of the scheme - which would have required all nurses to register with the Independent Safeguarding Authority – amid concerns it could have “catastrophic” consequences for their careers.
Under the scheme, nurses who committed relatively minor offences faced being struck off by the ISA for 10 years without a fair hearing or a right to appeal. The college also feared the scheme could make nurses overly cautious about comforting or being left alone with patients.
RCN general secretary and chief executive Peter Carter said today the scheme had “no adequate safeguards against ill-founded allegations” which could leave nurses barred from practising for years with effectively no right of appeal.
“The RCN has repeatedly reiterated nurses’ serious concerns about the potential unfairness of the barring process and appeal procedures,” he said.
“After 18 months of actively raising concerns about the fairness of the vetting and barring scheme, the RCN is pleased to hear that the scheme is to be put on hold while it is reviewed,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the Nursing and Midwifery Council said the NMC “will continue to safeguard the public by ensuring all nurses and midwives are properly qualified and competent and by investigating allegations made against those who may not have followed the code”.