Student nurses have been caught up in a backlog of criminal record checks by the police, which it is claimed is affecting their ability to start placements.
High demand and lack of staff sparked the delays towards the end of last year but, according to reports, the problems have persisted.
“I’m stressed, I’m worried, I don’t know whether I’ll even pass my degree”
The government’s Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) warned in the autumn that enhanced criminal record checks for those planning to work with children may be delayed if they had to go to the Metropolitan police.
The enhanced DBS checks have to be reviewed by local police forces, as part of the disclosure service, and are built-in to the time it usually takes to process a potential employee’s check.
But the DBS said some applications going to the Met were taking much longer than its 60-day escalation target, with some taking up to 130 days before being processed.
“We know you will be concerned by this and understand the impact this can have on applicants and employers,” said the DBS in a statement issued in October.
It said the problem was caused by a number of issues with the Met’s staffing levels and their relocation from New Scotland Yard.
“They tell us that this is compounded by an increase in the number of applications within the London area, which is causing delays in processing times,” said the DBS, adding that the level of applications in progress meant it would take the force “some time to resolve the issue”.
“We are committed to reducing the number of outstanding cases”
It stated: “We are told by the Met that the impact of this issue will begin to decrease in December as the Met recruit, train and embed new processing staff into their disclosure unit.”
But the Evening Standard reported yesterday that the backlog currently totalled more than 68,000 cases and that it may not be cleared until the end of May.
It reported that fewer than 45% of cases were completed within the target of 60 days, with the average waiting time 75 days.
The newspaper quoted Rebecca Lynas, a 26-year-old student nurse at London South Bank University who it said had been waiting since August.
She began studying for a postgraduate diploma in children’s nursing in September and needs to complete a 12-week placement at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital or risk being thrown off the course.
Criminal checks hold-up delaying student placements
“I’m stressed, I’m worried, I don’t know whether I’ll even pass my degree – and none of it is my fault,” she told the paper.
In a statement, the Met said that it handled over 12% of all DBS cases nationally and was having to process 25,000 more than it was currently funded to, due to rising demand.
It admitted that it currently had a “high” number of outstanding cases, which it confirmed now totalled 68,701.
“The average waiting time is currently 75 days. However 15% of cases are completed within 25 days and 45% of cases are completed within the target of 60 days,” it said.
“We know you will be concerned by this and understand the impact this can have on applicants and employers”
Disclosure and Barring Service
However, the force highlighted that the checks were “not simple administrative work”, and that specially trained staff were making decisions that directly impacted on children, vulnerable adults and those who wanted to work with them.
“A recruitment strategy is in place to increase and train more staff,” it said. “Unfortunately this is not a quick process.
“We are committed to reducing the number of outstanding cases and are working closely with the DBS and Home Office,” said the force in its statement.
It added: “While we are cautiously optimistic that we are starting to reduce the backlog, we cannot control the incoming demand. If demand is as projected we expect to be back on target by the end of May to meet the DBS national target.”
The DBS, which is part of the Home Office, replaced the Criminal Records Bureau and Independent Safeguarding Authority in 2012.