There is a “real possibility” that hundreds of health staff who have abused patients are securing new jobs by concealing their past, according to a senior regulator.
Independent Safeguarding Authority chief executive officer Adrian McAllister issued the warning as figures showed only 5% of referrals to the body came from the NHS in 2010-11.
The ISA has the power to bar staff from working with children or vulnerable patients after investigating complaints made by employers.
In 2010-2011, the ISA received 5,361 allegations of physical, sexual, emotional and financial abuse. This is in addition to cases where people were convicted of a serious offence and were automatically barred.
But only 229 came from the NHS. A King’s College London study examined rates of disciplinaries, dismissials and patient incidents across 14 trusts and concluded that 712 referrals should have been made across the NHS each year, based on these figures.
Mr McAllister said: “Without these referrals there is a real possibility that offenders are able to move to other posts and sectors only to abuse again.”
In contrast to the NHS, there were 2,186 referrals from the care sector, 945 from local authorities and 513 from the education sector last year.
The King’s College report said NHS workers were “apparently not disciplined appropriately” and “harm is apparently not dealt [with] appropriately by the NHS”.
This could be because the “no blame culture” has “gone too far”, it said.
In addition, it suggested that a predominantly caring and close working team of professionals did not want to “think negatively” about colleagues.
But the Council for Healthcare Excellence has also previously highlighted shortcomings with ISA’s processes, including warning that little information about referrals is shared with employers. Council for Healthcare Excellence chief executive Harry Cayton told Nursing Times ISA guidance was still “not sufficiently clear or understood”.