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Protection of Vulnerable Adults could be a breach of human rights for suspended nurses

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A landmark court case set to begin this week could lead to around 100 nurses claiming compensation against the government for being suspended from work without the opportunity to defend themselves

The RCN hopes to persuade the Law Lords that the Protection of Vulnerable Adults scheme contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights.

If the initial case succeeds in the House of Lords, it will open the way for nearly 100 claims for lost earnings and damage to personal and professional lives. These would be heard together – as a class action – in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

Under the Protection of Vulnerable Adults scheme, nurses are put on a provisional list if a complaint has been made against them. They can appeal to the government but investigations can take up to nine months, during which time they are unable to work.

The RCN will argue that this contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights because nurses do not have the chance to put forward their case before suspension.

Protection of Vulnerable Adults will be succeeded next year by the Independent Safeguarding Authority scheme, which will allow nurses to make their case before any suspension.

However, for many nurses, the college argued that the damage has been done.

Helen Caulfield, a solicitor at the RCN, said: ‘One nurse had to sell his house because he could not work. Another had to rent his house out and sleep on his friend’s floor.’

Frances Swaine, a partner at law firm Leigh Day, which would take the class action to Strasbourg, said: ‘Some people have had to be repatriated because they can’t work in the country any more.’

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