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Hunt rejects call to extend barring checks on staff and volunteers

  • 2 Comments

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has rejected a key recommendation from the investigation into lessons learnt from the historic abuse by Jimmy Savile at NHS hospitals.

Lead investigator Kate Lampard recommended that all staff and volunteers who have contact with patients and their visitors should undergo a barring list check and that this should take place every three years.

However, the health secretary said that this measure “may not, in itself, have stopped Savile”.

“Because of his celebrity and useful fundraising skills the right questions, the hard questions, simply, were not asked”

Jeremy Hunt

He added that it would be the “ultimate tragedy” if Savile’s “legacy” was to “hold back the work of the NHS’s true heroes who give so much to their local hospitals by volunteering their time”.

Mr Hunt said this measure should only apply to volunteers and staff working in “typically” close contact or with unsupervised contact with patients.

He also rejected the recommendation to update disclosure and barring service (DBS) checks on a three yearly basis.

He said: “I believe the report is correct to say trusts must make sure their information on volunteers is up to date, but they can achieve this through asking volunteers to make use of the DBS update service which enables trusts to check DBS information regularly and avoids volunteers having to go through the DBS process multiple times, and we will be advising all trusts to do this.”

Mr Hunt accepted 13 of the recommendations, including:

  • trusts developing a celebrity visit policy;
  • trusts developing an internet and social media access policy;
  • trusts to review voluntary service arrangements; and
  • the “possible” development of a forum for voluntary service managers set up by the Department of Health and NHS England.

He has also asked Monitor and the NHS Trust Development Authority to ask trusts to review their current practice within three months against the recommendations and send a summary of plans and progress against each one. This will be fed into the government’s work to tackle child sexual exploitation.

Mr Hunt “welcomed” the growth of volunteer numbers in the NHS and said the government needed to “make sure” that any safeguards put in place support its future growth by helping to protect the reputation of volunteering as well as the safety of patients.

He added that trusts should ensure “proper safeguarding procedures” are in place locally as well as using the disclosure and barring service process because it would be “wrong to rely on a national database as a substitute for local common sense and vigilance”.

Mr Hunt said ministers decided to give Savile the role of overseeing the building of a new spinal centre at Stoke Mandeville hospital “even though he had no relevant experience”.

He added: “Because of his celebrity and useful fundraising skills the right questions, the hard questions, simply, were not asked.”

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • michael stone

    I posted about the 'headline issue' yesterday, and I'm in the unsettling position of tending to agree with Hunt about an aspect of this - the problem was not so much that JS wasn't 'vetted', but that despite his bad behaviour being reported by patients or observed by staff, nothing was then done:

    Comment on: Savile inquiry calls for change in law for screening healthcare staff

    michael stone's comment 26-Feb-2015 2:33 pm

    If the 'whistleblowing' issue is properly sorted out, so that concerns are raised and looked into in 'real time' and not years after the event, it will remove some of the pressure on 'vetting everyone'. No bad behaviour, which vetting might get close to achieving at the cost of a lot of time and effort, and possibly the creation of a sort of 'horrible paranoid atmosphere of distrust', is of course the ideal: but if Savile had been stopped once he had behaved badly (if patients who raised concerns had been listened to, and staff who had seen something had acted and stopped him from carrying on with his assaults) then this would have never escalated to the story it is now. I read the DH Broadmoor report, and it was hugely depressing (I'm told another one - Leeds I seem to recall - was even worse) because a lot of the staff seem to have had a very bad attitude. And the staff who were trying to improve things, seem to have been swamped by a general enviroment which was pretty awful.

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  • I think enhanced DBS checks should be done.
    At least volunteers won't have to pay for it (and maybe charities could get exemption for fees). Some organisations already have their volunteers DBS checked.

    3-yearly DBS checks? - like MOTs only uptodate on day of checking.

    If you think, DBS checks are another bureaucratic way of making money / taxing workers and some bad apples still slip through the net. I quite agree.

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