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”
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.”