09 January 2010
Children are being forced to wait for months for consultations and treatment because of delays caused by the Home Office’s new Vetting and Barring Scheme for those working with children, says the Royal College of Surgeons who call for a ‘passport’ system for doctors crossing NHS Trusts.
To ensure patients get equitable access to treatment across the country, specialist doctors frequently need to undertake short-notice cover of colleagues in other hospitals who take annual leave or sickness absence. Also, surgeons need to work across Trusts in the course of service delivery and training. The new regulations mean that paediatric surgeons need to undergo a Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check every time they work at a new hospital and are not allowed to start work until the process is completed and hard copy received by post by the employing Trust. Currently, backlogs in the system mean this can take several months which is far too long for NHS Trusts to be able to effectively cover each other should highly specialist doctors become suddenly unavailable.
The Royal College of Surgeons believes that the solution is a system of mutual recognition, so that a doctor who has undergone the CRB process with one NHS Trust is automatically cleared to undertake locum cover in another if required. This suggestion was put to the Department of Health at a meeting between senior officials and the College President on November 10th.
Richard Collins, Vice-President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “It is absolutely right that there should be robust checks for anyone who works with children, but there needs to be some common sense to ensure patients don’t suffer. The NHS needs flexibility to enable surgeons in specialist fields to undertake operating lists in other Trusts, often on an ad hoc basis. To require them to repeat the same time-consuming bureaucratic process each time is a completely unnecessary delay that must be revised.”
The experience of David Jones, paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Great Ormond Street Hospital, is one example of how the system is causing problems. He was asked to cover a colleague’s sickness leave in Leeds over December and January. He says: “Despite filling out all the documentation at the beginning of November, the process dragged on in spite of many phone calls to CRB from Leeds General Infirmary. All the clinics and lists planned for December had to be cancelled, thereby causing large numbers of very upset families. In December, I wrote to The Secretaries of State for Children, Skills & Family; The Home Office and Department of Health along with Senior Management of NHS but have had no response. This week’s clinics were also cancelled. My clearance finally came through today (Jan 7th) and we are trying to get clinics set up for next week. I think more than a month has been wasted needlessly and many children and their families seriously let down.”
Notes to Editors
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