The Royal College of Nursing has won a legal case that it hopes will ensure nursing staff wrongly accused of criminal offences are not at risk of being turned down for future employment.
Under old Home Office guidance, the police had a very wide discretion to record any previous allegations against an individual, often regardless of the strength of any evidence to back them up, in the Enhanced Criminal Records Certificates that all nurses are required to have.
The RCN said it considered this to have the potential to be “immensely damaging” to the careers of nurses that had been wrongly accused in the workplace and that it might prevent re-employment.
As a result, the RCN took the Home Office to court and challenged the right of the police to include spurious claims without evidence in Enhanced Criminal Records Certificates.
As a result of winning the case, the RCN was asked by the Home Office to help draft new guidance.
Jonathan Green, RCN Senior Legal Officer, said: “I am delighted that the RCN has been successful in changing the government’s guidance, which had the potential to be entirely unfair on nursing staff and put them in the position of being out of work for no reason.
“The changes to the guidance will be of significant benefit to RCN members and help prevent cases like Nurse J’s, which we won very recently.”
Nurse J was wrongly accused of a criminal offence and therefore at risk of not being re-employed.
The RCN took Nurse J’s case to the High Court, and the judge quashed the decision made by Devon and Cornwall Police to disclose allegations made against Nurse J, concluding that these allegations were insufficiently serious or reliable.
Mr Green added: “Nurse J found herself in the precisely the situation all nurses are afraid of – being the subject of disclosure about allegations in her past which were either minor errors in practice or were wholly untrue.
“We hope that other police forces take note of this judgment when deciding whether to disclose allegations made against other nurses in future.”