New medical assessments for nurses with a caution or conviction for an alcohol or drug related offence must help people to address any underlying health conditions, a union has warned.
Last week regulator the Nursing and Midwifery Council introduced a requirement for nurses or midwives with a caution or conviction for an alcohol or drug related offence to undergo medical assessments when applying for or renewing their registration in some cases.
NMC chief executive and registrar Dickon Weir-Hughes said: “This policy is designed to improve patient safety by aiding decision making providing additional evidence of a nurse or midwife’s health following receipt of a caution or conviction for an alcohol or drug related offence.
“In order to effectively safeguard the public, we need to be confident that any nurse or midwife who has received an alcohol or drug related caution or conviction in the years between renewing their registration is fit and safe to practise,” said professor Weir-Hughes.
However, Gail Adams, head of nursing at Unison, said the assessments needed to ensure they helped people with any health problems related to the charges.
“There are some people that have health related problems that are linked to drug or alcohol abuse. We think that the new assessments should be part of a full medical assessment. You need to look holistically at the whole person just as if they are a patient,” she said.
Ms Adams added that she would expect the assessments to be focussed on cases where people had more than one caution or conviction and the decision on whether they needed to be carried out should be “risk based and proportionate”.
Julie Fagan, co-ordinator of the Campaign Against Unnecessary Suspension and Exclusions in the NHS (CAUSE (UK)), said the NMC needed to ensure it considered the “wider picture” relating to such cases but she was “worried” this may not take place.