How Do DBS Checks Protect Vulnerable Hospital Patients?
Being admitted to hospital puts vulnerable people in an even more exposed position.
As soon as a person from a vulnerable group enters a hospital or clinic they are under the care and protection of the staff in that organisation. Unscrupulous or dangerous staff can potentially take advantage of this situation.
For this reason, and others that will be discussed shortly, it’s highly important that hospitals and clinics put the care and protection of vulnerable patients near the top of their priorities.
Before we look at ways to protect vulnerable patients, including DBS checks, let’s first identify the kind of people who make up the most vulnerable groups.
Identifying the most vulnerable patients
The most vulnerable people to be admitted to hospitals or clinics are those who are unable to make informed decisions for themselves. Depending on the group they belong to, they may also need help with simple tasks such as eating, washing, or exercise.
Some vulnerable people may have emotional or behavioral issues as well, which means they may need extra assistance for their own protection and safety, or that of others.
This is not a full list of vulnerable groups, but here are some of the groups of patients that may contain vulnerable individuals:
- People with mental illness or poor mental health
- Individuals with learning difficulties
- Physically disabled people.
- Elderly people
- Chronically ill patients
- Terminally ill patients
- Patients that are anesthetised or heavily sedated.
At this point you may be wondering why children are not in this list. The main reason for this is that usually, children will have parents or guardians that accompany them or join them in hospital. The parents or guardians have the power to make informed decisions on behalf of the children while looking out for their welfare. In some cases, children may be admitted to hospital who do not have parents, guardians, or appointed adults, in which case they will be classified as a vulnerable patient.
Safeguarding vulnerable patients in hospital
There are three main ways in which hospitals and other medical institutions safeguard vulnerable patients:
- Having well planned and regularly updated safeguarding policies that are adhered to.
- Investigating, reporting, and resolving cases of abuse involving vulnerable patients.
- Using good recruitment practices to vet staff and make sure they are suitable for care roles.
The third point on the list above involves the use of DBS checks.
Which hospital staff need to be thoroughly vetted before working with and caring for vulnerable patients?
In a hospital environment, there are three main groups of employees that should be thoroughly checked before working with vulnerable patients. They are:
- Other auxiliary care staff.
These groups of employees will be in the closest contact with vulnerable patients and are all jointly responsible for checking and monitoring their care needs. This places them in a position of trust as they have considerable power and influence over vulnerable patients.
Carrying out a DBS check before hiring is the best way to ensure that people in these positions of trust do not have a history of abusive or dishonest behavior.
What are DBS Checks?
A Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check involves searching an individual’s criminal record and creating a report of any criminal behavior that may affect their suitability for the role.
There are 3 levels of DBS check.
- Basic DBS Check – Low level check that returns only unspent convictions or cautions.
- Standard DBS Check – Mid-level check that shows all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, warnings, as well as reprimands. Standard checks are usually carried out when the role involves some regular contact with vulnerable groups.
- Enhanced DBS Check – Highest level of DBS check. Shows up most or all entries on a criminal record, as well as checking the Children and Adults Barred List. An enhanced check is usually carried out for people working directly with vulnerable groups in a position of responsibility.
Doctors, nurses, and other staff directly responsible for the care of vulnerable patients are required to consent to an enhanced DBS check before being appointed to the position. The checks are usually refreshed every six months to three years, depending on the job role.
Safeguarding vulnerable patients in hospitals and clinics is of the utmost importance. All too often we hear stories of patients being abused, neglected, or otherwise ill-treated in care environments.
DBS checks are one tool that employers and organisation leaders can use to make sure they are appointing staff that are responsible enough to do the job.
However, DBS checks cannot be the sole safeguard. Hospital policies and workplace culture need to be proactive in preventing, identifying, and stopping neglect and mistreatment. Regular training should be given to staff in spotting the signs of abuse and how to report it.