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Nurses gain defence right before work ban

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NURSES should have the right to give evidence before any work ban is imposed on them due to public protection concerns, the Court of Appeal ruled last week.

NURSES should have the right to give evidence before any work ban is imposed on them due to public protection concerns, the Court of Appeal ruled last week.

Until now, independent sector nurses referred to the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) scheme could be provisionally banned from any setting, including the NHS, by the health secretary before they had a chance to defend themselves.

However, the appeal court said last week that, in all but the most serious cases, nurses should have the opportunity to provide written evidence before a decision is taken to prevent them from working.

As a result, the Department of Health has said it will no longer provisionally list these individuals unless there is clear evidence of harm or that any misconduct was serious.

The RCN said it will continue to pursue damages from the government on behalf of a group of members who lost thousands of pounds in earnings after being listed and later cleared.

The college has around 60 claims lodged with the European Court of Justice in relation to the legislation. It will now be reviewing how it will proceed with this case in light of the appeal court decision.

Howard Richmond, RCN deputy director of legal services, said: 'Our objection was that we had a whole range of cases, from the relatively trivial to the extremely serious, that all received the same treatment - an immediate work ban pending full investigation.

'And, given the pressures on the POVA unit, cases spent a long time being processed and it could take months before [nurses] who were subsequently cleared could start working again.'

Last week's ruling followed a government appeal against a high court decision last November, which said that the POVA scheme was unfair and incompatible with European human rights laws.

Under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act, which will come into force in stages from autumn 2008, provisional listing will be removed altogether for all healthcare sectors.

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