Working in the healthcare sector

Aim of this page

People who work in healthcare and other allied professions are part of a large and diverse workforce, caring for predominantly vulnerable individuals.

Employers recruiting into these roles can be especially risk averse and don’t always make the most sensible or proportionate decisions in terms of risk.

This page is part of our section on looking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering and pulls together some of the roles set out on our A-Z list of common occupations and professions.

Why is this important?

Many roles in the health and social care sector will require an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service check. For anybody working in regulated activity (for example doctors or nurses) a check of the Children’s and/or Adults Barred List will also be carried out.

Having an understanding of the questions you will be asked by the appropriate relevant body, (for example the General Medical Council or the Nursing and Midwifery Council) and knowing what legally you need to disclose should ensure you do not over or under disclose. It will also allow you to give some thought to how you respond to any concerns raised by registering bodies or employers.

Doctor

To practice medicine in the UK you will need a licence and will have to join the UK medical register. As part of their registration process, the General Medical Council (GMC) will ask you to provide evidence of your fitness to practice. This will include details of any health conditions which may affect your ability to practice as a doctor as well as details of your criminal record.

What do the GMC need to know about your criminal record?

With regard to your criminal record, the GMC ask the following questions:

Have you been formally cautioned or convicted by the police or a court?

[If your caution or conviction is protected by law in the UK, answer ‘No’]”

If you have a caution or conviction that isn’t protected (filtered) you will need to give the following details:

  • The date the caution was issued or the date you were convicted
  • Details of the offence and the circumstances leading up to it
  • The name and address of the issuing court or police service
  • Whether you disclosed your caution/conviction to your employer or medical school/university, and if so, what the outcome was.

In addition to the above question, the GMC also ask:

Has any other action been taken against you by the police or a similar organisation?”

In their guidance, the GMC state that you should tell them about other police actions which did not result in a caution or conviction, for example if:

  • You have been interviewed under caution or arrested for a violent or sexual offence
  • You have been charged with a criminal offence and the outcome is pending
  • You have received a cannabis warning in England or Wales
  • If you have received a penalty notice for disorder for an upper tier offence.

You do not need to disclose Fixed Penalty Notices (FPN).

You can find further guidance from the GMC regarding the disclosure of cautions and convictions here.

How do the GMC make a decision when a caution or conviction is disclosed?

Disclosing a caution or conviction will not necessarily mean that the GMC will refuse your registration; they look at each application on a case-by-case basis. They will consider:

  • The seriousness of the offence and the punishment you received
  • Any mitigating factors
  • What you have done to address your offending behaviour.

The GMC Sanctions Guidance is used by the Fitness to Practice Panels when making their decisions.

Nurse

Student nurses

As part of a nursing degree, students will be required to carry out clinical placements which involve undertaking regulated activity.

It is usually the case that as part of their admissions process, universities will apply for a DBS check for anybody applying for a nursing course in readiness for clinical placements.

Staff new to the NHS

If you are new to the NHS, you will often receive a conditional offer of employment before your employer has received your DBS certificate. It’s important to note that although you will be able to complete an induction or training, you will probably find that your duties will be restricted to non-regulated activity until the outcome of your DBS check is known.

If you are going to be working in regulated activity with adults, an employer can find out whether you are on the barred list by carrying out a DBS Adult First check.

Existing staff changing jobs within the same organisation

A new DBS check will not usually be required if you are changing jobs within the same organisation and the roles and responsibilities of your new job do not change or do not require a different level of check.

The need for a new DBS check can be triggered when:

  • You’ve never had a criminal record check before and you are moving to a role that now requires you to have one.
  • Your new position significantly changes your role, responsibilities or the amount of contact you will have with vulnerable groups.

Employers will usually make it clear that staff have a contractual obligation to disclose any criminal cautions or convictions that are acquired during their employment. Failure to disclose relevant information relating to your criminal record or barred list status may lead to disciplinary action and possible dismissal.

Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks

The level of DBS check carried out by the employer will depend on the role you are applying for. NHS Employers have produced some guidance around role eligibility which can be found here.

In May 2013 the rules around what is (and is not) disclosed on standard and enhanced DBS certificates was introduced. These rules were updated on 28 November 2020.

Under the filtering rules, you do not need to disclose any cautions or convictions that have been filtered (‘protected’), irrespective of whether you are going to be engaging in regulated activity. It is unlawful for an employer to take any protected cautions and convictions into account when making a recruitment decision.

Other types of check

Self-declaration

Many NHS Trusts will ask applicants to disclose details of their criminal record at application stage. Others will require successful applicants to complete a self-declaration form at job offer stage.

These declaration forms include a range of questions the employer is legally entitled to ask including information about criminal records, registration with professional bodies and fitness to practise. Employers might use the standard NHS model declaration forms or one that is organisational specific. It is important however that the employer uses the correct form for the job they are recruiting for so that applicants do not over or under disclose their criminal record.

  1. Model declaration form A – should only be completed if you are applying for a position which is exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974. These are positions which are eligible for either a standard or enhanced DBS check and set out in the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (as amended) or the Police Act 1997.
  2. Model declaration form B – should only be completed if you are applying for a position which is covered by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and which requires a basic DBS check.

Overseas police checks

If you are applying for a job from outside the UK you will usually be asked to provide an overseas police certificate from your most recent country of residence. Further guidance on applying for an overseas police check can be found here.

How do the NHS deal with a positive disclosure?

Disclosing your criminal record to an employer does not automatically mean that you will be refused a position in the NHS. NHS employer’s consider each application on a case-by-case basis assessing the information provided during the application, interview and criminal record checking process.

Guidance published in January 2021 by NHS Employers suggests that before offering any appointment, line managers/HR should give careful consideration to individuals:

  • Currently on licence or a community order
  • Subject to a suspended prison sentence
  • Under a conditional discharge
  • Subject to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation measures.

Line managers/HR will in the first instance consider an individuals skills, experience and ability to do the job they’re applying for and should only take into account cautions/convictions which are relevant to the post.

  • How relevant the offence(s) is in relation to the job you are applying for.
  • That there are no legal or regulatory issues which would prevent you from doing the job – for example if the job involves regulated activity, make sure the employer knows that you are not on a barred list.
  • The nature and seriousness of the offence(s).
  • The age you were at the time of the offence(s).
  • Whether the offence(s) is a one-off or forms a pattern of offending.
  • The circumstances at the time you received your criminal record and what you have done since then.

As stated above, many NHS Trusts will ask you to complete a self-declaration form and, due to the complexities of the criminal justice system it can be easy for applicants to misunderstand or get confused about what needs to be disclosed. Unfortunately, employers will often become concerned about any discrepancies in the information you have provided compared with that shown on a DBS certificate and therefore, before disclosing to an employer we recommend you:

If you’re not sure about the date of your caution/conviction, what you were cautioned/convicted of or the sentence or disposal you received, apply for a copy of your police record. This is referred to as a Subject Access Request (SAR) and can be applied for online; it is free and takes approximately 30 days.
Find out what, (if any), level of criminal record check the employer will be doing.
If the role is covered by the ROA and requires a basic DBS check, use Unlock’s disclosure calculator to work out whether you have any convictions which are unspent and which need to be disclosed.
If the role is exempt from the ROA and requires a standard or enhanced DBS check, use our brief guide to find out which cautions/convictions will be removed from a standard/enhanced DBS and no longer need to be disclosed.

Other health and care professions

Allied health professionals make up the third largest clinical workforce in the NHS.

.

  • Arts therapists
  • Biomedical scientists
  • Chiropodists/podiatrists
  • Clinical scientists
  • Dietitians
  • Hearing aid dispensers
  • Occupational therapists
  • Operating department practitioners
  • Orthopists
  • Paramedics
  • Physiotherapists
  • Practitioner psychologists
  • Prosthetists/orthotists
  • Radiographers
  • Speech and language therapists

All of the above roles are covered and regulated by The Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC).

When applying to join the HCPC Register you will be asked the following questions:

  1. Have you been convicted of a criminal offence or received a police caution (other than a protected caution or protected conviction)?
  2. Are you or have you ever been barred under the Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Act 2006 and/or the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (Scotland) Act 2007 from working with children and/or vulnerable adults.

A criminal record will not automatically bar you from working in any of the above roles although disclosure is likely to lead to your registration needing to be considered at a panel hearing.

The HCPC’s guidance on health and character states that your application is likely to be rejected if you have been convicted or accepted a police caution for an offence involving:

  • Violence
  • Abuse
  • Sexual misconduct
  • Supply of drugs
  • Child pornography
  • Dishonesty

Any conviction which resulted in a prison sentence would usually mean that your application would be refused.

Useful links

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed can be found here.

More information

  1. For practical self-help information – We have further information on looking for (and keeping) employment and volunteering.
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine.
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experiences on our online forum.
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this you can contact our helpline.

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