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Savile inquiry calls for change in law for screening healthcare staff

  • 7 Comments

The law should be changed to require all NHS staff and volunteers in contact with patients should be given a barring list check, the authors of an investigation into Jimmy Savile’s historic sexual abuse have said.

At a press conference this morning former barrister Kate Lampard, who led investigations into historic abuse at Leeds General Infirmary, Broadmoor Hospital and Stoke Mandeville Hospital, said: “Our investigations suggest there is very patchy management of volunteer schemes.

“We found some good practice and… some poor practice and some very weak management arrangements,” she said.

Some hospitals manage volunteer schemes at board level. However, the investigation team also found voluntary services that “did not appear to be strategically planned or led, and where the voluntary services manager worked in isolation with little or no connection to the wider management system of the hospital, and with little or no management or administrative support”.

The investigator’s report, published today, calls for legislation to be changed so that all hospital staff and volunteers that come into contact with patients or their visitors are subject to enhanced disclosure and barring service checks.

Ms Lampard said the training and retraining of staff and volunteers was essential to prevent future incidents of abuse.

Stoke Mandeville hospital

A separate investigation found that Savile carried out abuse on 60 victims at Stoke Mandeville Hospital

The report’s authors found concerns about “limitations” on security checks for staff and volunteers in hospital settings when interviewing hospital staff.

The report states: “Most of those we interviewed who had experience of safeguarding issues told us of their concerns about the present limitations on barring lists checks for staff and volunteers working in NHS hospital settings and elsewhere and the risks this poses.”

Trusts should ensure that staff and volunteers undergo formal safeguarding training at least every three years, the report states. These should be carried out by trusts every three years.

The report’s authors recommend that the Department of Health and NHS England should establish a forum for voluntary services managers in the NHS where they can receive support, training and share best practice.

Trust human resources managers should have overall responsibility for contract and agency staff. The authors found that this varied between hospitals, with some contract staff managed by facilities departments.

They also found that staff who witnessed Savile’s abuse were “reluctant” to report it to senior staff.

While the report stateed that hospitals should try to “reduce opportunities for those without legitimate reasons from gaining access to wards and other clinical areas”, the authors said they recognised that “total restriction” across a hospital site is “neither desirable [nor] achievable”.

‘Weak’ leadership at Stoke Mandeville in Savile abuse era

In a separate report into the abuse carried out by Jimmy Savile at Stoke Mandeville Hospital between 1969 and 1992, investigators found there was 60 victims aged 8-40. The victims included patients, staff, visitors, volunteers and charity workers.

Lead investigator Androulla Johnstone said the leadership of the trust was “weak” and there was no oversight of the various hospital sites.

Savile worked as a voluntary porter at the hospital and was appointed with no checks or monitoring in place. He had access to the entire hospital site 24 hours a day.

Junior staff were annoyed and distressed by his “sexual innuendo” and “disruptive behaviour”. However, senior staff said he was an “important asset” to the hospital. The report states that senior staff did not seem to be aware of his actions.

It says: “It would appear that at no stage were senior managers made aware of either his sexual offending or his unsatisfactory portering performance and poor moral behaviour.”

Many of Savile’s victims were vulnerable because they were young or unwell. The abuse ranged from “inappropriate touching” to rape.

Although some victims told staff about the abuse, the investigation found that these reports were not taken seriously or escalated to senior management.

  • 7 Comments

Readers' comments (7)

  • michael stone

    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 Saville 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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  • 'Trusts should ensure that staff and volunteers undergo formal safeguarding training at least every three years, the report states.'
    Is that because the average person can't remember anything for more than three years, then? Isn't this yet another 'we will atone with what we've failed to do in the past by complete overkill in the future'. Where do we fit this work in, along with all the other 'routine' training we have to do?

    Would it not be far more sensible to insist on basic training for everyone, then have brief 'top-up' training modules for those who wish to avail themselves of anything more?

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  • A standard disclosure check for a volunteer is free, so no excuse there, but otherwise costs £26. Multiply that by the number of staff with over 3 years service and...well lets's just say that's probably why some Trusts don't bother?

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  • Pussy

    OK but what about all those who work in the media eg the BBC? They are just as bad.

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  • All checks do is record whether or not anybody has a conviction. Not whether they have been investigated and 'cleared' because of lack of evidence. In other words, even if the person is guilty, he/she may get away with it. Clearly everybody was blinded by the 'celebrity' status in Savile's case. Unthinkable now - I hope. We have the situation where parents aren't allowed to accompany children on school trips to help the teachers out, unless they've had CRB clearance - an author was not allowed into a school classroom to read her work out to the children in the presence of the staff, because she hadn't been investigated. With caution carried to this ridiculous extreme, surely vulnerable people should be safe in future,

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  • this is being done already, what about mps? they don't get any screening

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  • Its not just about screening staff to prevent another Savile sexual abuse scandal but more about the culture amongst existing staff to ignore potential threats to patients.
    I am currently a operating theatre nurse at a very large NHS hospital in North-West London.In my 4 years of working there I have witnessed numerous occasions whereby visitors wander into the operating theatres to view patient surgery without any valid ID badge and are unknown by the management.Despite objections from a few vocal nursing staff this problem of visitors to clinical areas has been largely ignored even by senior management and it shows the level of ignorance about patient safety in general within a hospital setting.Who knows the background of any visitor to an operating theatre whether they are work experience students or medical or IT reps?
    Who knows the medical history of visitors who could potentially infect a patient during their surgery ?How many visitors were actually recorded as being in the operating theatre with the patient.
    I guarantee you that most Trusts would never be able answer those questions as they fail to take the issue seriously.
    Serious questions need to be put to the Chief Nurse and CEOs of these Trusts as the term "patient advocacy"seems to be have been completely forgotten about.
    And to those nursing staff who fail to ask why a visitor is in a clinical area shame on you all !!!

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