Managers at Barts and the London Trust were unable to guarantee paediatric staff had passed Criminal Records Bureau checks for three years, following a series of human resources failings, HSJ has learned.
A confidential report obtained by HSJ under the Freedom of Information Act shows the trust’s board was alerted to the problem in 2009 and began a project that October to recheck all 7,500 staff.
Three years later the process was still incomplete. The report showed that as late as January 2012 staff in “high risk” areas were still unchecked.
In December 2011 the trust admitted it had breached the Care Quality Commission compliance terms on staff safety. It threatened to suspend or dismiss any employee who had not submitted the correct paperwork to be checked.
Many staff complained that they had already submitted documentation. In January 2012 investigators found completed but unprocessed CRB forms in drawers or a box in the HR department in which staff had posted their responses.
The report identified a “lack of leadership and consistent management in HR”.
It also found evidence of a “concern amongst HR personnel [over their ability] to manage problems within the department”.
In February 2011 the board was told the validation of staff working with children had been completed. However, the report said “this turned out to be wholly untrue”.
The report from management consultant Hilary Merrett added: “It is clear that the report was not willfully misleading: the authors relied on data which was drawn from systems being changed on a daily basis, and whose baseline – if any – was inaccurate.”
In fact, checks for 550 staff identified as “high risk” because they worked with children remained to be completed.
The problems were reported to NHS London as a “serious incident” in February 2012.
The trust said that during the re-checking, no staff member was found to have a conviction that was previously unknown.
Ali Mohammed was HR director from January 2009 to March 2012, when the trust merged with Whipps Cross University Hospitals Trust and Newham University Hospital Trust to form Barts Health Trust.
He was seconded to the role of director of human resources and organisational development service design at the NHS Commissioning Board and is now seconded to Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children Foundation Trust as interim director of HR.
Barts Health Trust trust has now appointed Michael Pantlin, former head of HR at the Royal Surrey County Hospital Foundation Trust, in his place.
A spokeswoman for Barts Health Trust said: “[The trust] has been able to learn important lessons from the review of the project and we are confident that our new CRB policy is robust in helping us meet our requirements in relation to these checks.
“Newly recruited staff and those joining our recruitment team are made aware of their responsibility within the policy, and ongoing weekly data quality checks, as well as regular reports to the trust’s governance committees, also provide a rigorous framework for assurance.”
The trust’s problems with CRB checks overlapped with its payroll difficulties, which HSJ revealed last week. These saw the trust overpay staff by approximately £1m in both 2010-11 and 2011-12 and instruct debt collection agencies to recover the money from employees and former employees.