Care homes have been in the news for all the wrong reasons over 2020. A Blackpool care home hit the headlines over the summer due to failures over background checking and DBS checks, resulting in increased monitoring from the Care Quality Commission (CQC), and increased frequency of checking. So, what exactly happened and how can other care homes avoid falling into the same traps?
The first issue highlighted by the CQC was the lack of pre-employment checking in general, not just in DBS checks. In the care sector, it is standard practice to carry our thorough background checks on anyone applying to work in healthcare. This could mean investigating discrepancies on CVs or chasing up explanations for gaps in a work history. It also means asking for proof of the right to live of work in the UK, by looking at passports and other nationality documents. This is the sort of basic checking which any employer should be doing, but it is perhaps even more important in a setting where you want to be sure that you are employing people who are honest and trustworthy. The other issue highlighted by the CQC was the lack of proper records; this is especially important in the care sector where companies are inspected but is good practice in all other businesses too.
Currently, all healthcare workers are having their applications for DBS checks fast-tracked through the system. The DBS will give a quick 48-hour response indicating whether an applicant’s name features on the Barred Lists, with the full check also receiving priority in checking. The Blackpool care home in question had submitted DBS checks for its staff in the correct manner, although there were still come concerns around record-keeping on employee records.
There is no law forbidding staff from starting work before a full DBS check has been received, as long as the proper background checks have been completed. Usually, care homes will put a new member of staff into training with a more experienced member of staff, ensuring that they are not left on their own with vulnerable people before their certificate is received.
Key Advice for Employers
No owner of a business wants their name and reputation splashed all over the local newspaper or social media sites. The CQC will always check issues around recruitment and HR, so get your house in order now to avoid a last-minute panic when the inspector arrives. The key issues to address are:
- Develop a process detailing what you will check when an application is received
- Implement a checklist system to tick off as tasks are completed
- Keep up to speed with any changes in processes and procedures at the DBS
- Consider how to use staff in the period between them starting work and receiving their DBS certificate in the post
- Get help from professional bodies or experts in safeguarding if you are struggling to develop consistent processes which conform with CQC or other guidelines.