Published: 14/10/2004, Volume II4, No. 5927 Page 5

All new recruits to the NHS will face a mandatory check to see if they have a criminal record, the department of Health will announce this week. But it will be up to NHS employers whether they employ someone with a record.

Currently only those who work with children are subject to a check by the Criminal Records Bureau. The new policy will see CRB checks extended to all new recruits who have patient contact.

Around 100,000 people a year will be affected.

The ruling will cover all newly recruited staff with direct patient contact as well as staff such as cleaners and maintenance workers who have indirect contact. The only group exempted will be back-office administrative staff.

The Home Office was adamant last week that long delays in obtaining CRB checks are a thing of the past. 'We have been turning around 90 per cent of standard disclosures in two weeks and 90 per cent of enhanced disclosures in four weeks since July 2003, ' said a spokesperson.

However, the CRB is not able to check the criminal history of foreign applicants who make up an increasing part of the workforce.