Protection of Freedoms Bill

Memorandum submitted by the Royal College of Surgeons (PF 29)


This briefing document outlines the Royal College of Surgeons’ (RCS) response to the Protection of Freedoms Bill, published on 11th February 2011. The RCS welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the Protection of Freedoms Bill Committee, and this evidence covers the areas of legislation which are relevant to NHS surgical services and patients.

Background Information

In clinical practice, the RCS recognises that Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks are a necessity to protect patients and allow the surgeon and the surgical team to work directly with vulnerable patients within the clinical environment. However the nature of clinical practice may require a clinician to work across NHS sites and NHS organisations in order to cover absences, respond to emergencies, as well as provide training for other clinicians, receive training or maintain their own skills by visiting another hospital for a short period under appropriate supervision.

Currently there is an impractical implementation of CRB checks. Numerous concerns have been expressed by surgeons that, although they have obtained CRB clearance in their employing Trust, they are refused permission to work in another Trust in any capacity unless they undergo a new full CRB check, requested by the second organisation. This duplication of the enhanced disclosure CRB checking process is largely unnecessary, time and resource consuming and has repeatedly resulted in severe delay or cancellation of operations, adversely affecting patients and services, compromising surgical training programmes and limiting opportunities for continuing professional development.

Observations on the Protection of Freedoms Bill, Part 5

· The RCS welcomes the additional provisions to the Police Act 1997 for up-dating certificates on a continuous basis (Protection of Freedoms Bill, Part 5, Chapter 2, Clause 80).

· The RCS expects these provisions to be interpreted in line with Sunita Mason’s recommendations [1] in her review of the criminal records regime in England and Wales. Of particular pertinence to the functionality of enhanced criminal records certificates is Sunita Mason’s recommendation that criminal records checks should be portable between positions within the same employment sector.

· The view of the RCS is that in order for the new provisions and recommendations to be effective they should be applied to all types and levels of clinical work in the same sector, including clinicians in training as well as consultants and other non-training grades, and for both long-term and short-term work.

· The RCS believes that the problem with the functionality and cost-efficiency of the criminal records regime can be alleviated through the new recommendations provided that Trusts are explicitly encouraged to implement them.

· Crucially, the RCS is concerned that good existing guidance from NHS Employers for sensible use of enhanced CRB disclosures is currently not being implemented by NHS Trusts with adverse effects to clinical services and patient safety.

March 2011

[1] A Common Sense Approach: A Review of the Criminal Records Regime in England and Wales . Sunita Mason. 2011.