POVA previously worked by immediately suspending nurses and other care home workers when a complaint was received and placing them on a ‘provisional list’.
While on the provisional list, nurses were unable to work and unable to make legal representations until they were cleared or attended a care standards tribunal, which can take up to a year to convene.
But the Law Lords ruled last week that POVA contravened the European Convention on Human Rights, meaning that any nurse or care worker now has the right to be heard before they can be placed on the provisional list.
RCN general secretary Peter Carter said: ‘In particular, we welcome the ruling so that the inherent unfairness of this system can be changed before the replacement scheme operated by the Independent Safeguarding Authority comes into operation this autumn.’
The ruling also paves the way for around 100 nurses to claim for lost earnings as part of a class action being taken to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Frances Swaine, head of the human rights department at Leigh Day Solicitors, which is bringing the class action, told Nursing Times: ‘The ruling means that we can now go ahead – but we are hoping that the government will be prepared to settle rather than go through another case.’
Care home nurse June Wright was placed on the provisional list and prevented from working after her former employer referred her to POVA following a dispute.
Although cleared of charges of misconduct by the NMC and a tribunal, Ms Wright is still trying to rebuild her nursing career after she was suspended in 2005.
‘I had to go bankrupt because I had taken a loan out before this happened,’ she said.
‘After I was suspended I could not pay the banks and I nearly lost my house.
‘If it had not been for my friends and family helping me, I would have been evicted from my house – it is so debilitating.’