Criminal record checks

COVID-19 indemnity and litigation

During the pandemic emergency, criminal record checks continue to play an important part of the check process to ensure safe services and patient care.

This section of the website outlines temporary measures which have been put in place by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) to help facilitate timely and effective processing of checks during this time.

Employers must continue to obtain a self-declaration form from all applicants as per current guidelines.

Checking identity to enable a DBS application

Ensuring safeguarding

Fast-track DBS checks

DBS check eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccination workforce

Current staff taking on additional duties

Recruiting from overseas

Checking identity to enable a DBS application

As of 27 March 2020, the DBS introduced measures to enable employers to process DBS check applications in advance of seeing original documentation. Employers can:

  • conduct documentary verification as part of a video call
  • ask applicants/existing workers to send scanned documents or a photograph of documents for checking via email or mobile app
  • record on file (eg using ESR) that they have carried out "adjusted checks on [date] due to COVID-19".

The temporary measures do not negate the need for employers to see original documents at the earliest opportunity (ie when the individual undertakes induction or other training or when they first commence work whichever is soonest). Full guidance on temporary measures can be found on the DBS section of the gov.uk website

Ensuring safeguarding

  • Employers should check whether appointees have subscribed to the DBS update service and seek the individual’s permission to access information about their criminal record check status online. Where individuals are subscribed and a check can be conducted online, there is no further requirement for a DBS check, unless it indicates that information is known about the individual, or the role they are being appointed to do requires a different level of check. 
  • Employers can accept pre-disclosed DBS checks that have been obtained by another organisation for another role. Where it’s the organisation’s policy to undertake three-yearly periodic checks, employers may wish to align any decision to accept pre-disclosed information with local arrangements. Any decision to accept pre-disclosed information must be based on an appropriate risk assessment as outlined in guidance for employers on the DBS website. 

  • Certain positions may be eligible for a fast track check against the adults and children's barred lists which may be accepted in advance of the full enhanced certificate being received and where safeguards can be put in place. See more information in the section below.

Fast-track DBS checks

The free DBS fast-track check against the barred list(s) is a temporary measures and applies to recruitment in England and Wales only.

The check must only be obtained where all the following criteria is met: 

  • individuals are specifically being appointed to deliver pandemic related treatment, care or services. Including individuals appointed to backfill where staff in those roles fall ill with pandemic related illnesses or are required to self-isolate

  • any such role would normally be eligible for an enhanced with barred list check. Including regulated healthcare professions and other roles which are not regulated, such as hospital porters transporting patients who have pandemic related illnesses

  • a full enhanced disclosure is obtained at the same time.

For all other non-pandemic related recruitment, employers must obtain a DBS check through the normal route and usual fees will apply. This is to ensure the DBS can flex to give priority to support employers to safely meet workforce needs as the pandemic evolves. 

Once the fast track check has been received and it shows no barring relates to the individual concerned, employers may appoint them into a regulated activity with adults and/or children. Appropriate safeguards must be put in place to supervise and manage the individual until the full disclosure has been received. 

Further considerations may need to be made once the full enhanced disclosure has been received and employers must put appropriate measures in place to deal with any issues that may arise.

Further information about new measures introduced under temporary legislation, eligibility and how to apply for a fast-track check can be found on the gov.uk website.

DBS check eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccination workforce 

Where recruitment is taking place for the COVID-19 vaccination programme, employers will need to assess whether a DBS check may be needed based on the responsibilities of the role and level of contact with patients. The job role examples below will help determine whether a check is required and at what level. They should be used in conjunction with our DBS eligibility tool and our criminal record checks standard. The responsibilities a staff member may have under each role may vary and as such employers should use their own discretion when organising checks.

Once you have established eligibility, whether you need to carry out a new check will be dependent on a number of factors.

  • Where staff already working in the NHS have had a DBS check within the last three years, or are subscribed to the DBS update service, this can be relied on and accepted if the check was at the right level. If there is a trigger for a new check (e.g. the DBS check was carried out more than three years ago, or their original disclosure showed offences that might need to be considered) then consideration must be given as to whether a new check would be required.
  • Where staff are deployed through NHS England and NHS Improvement's Bring Back Staff (BBS) scheme, Capita will have undertaken a range of checks when individuals were first accepted onto the scheme, including a DBS check. Where staff can present a letter issued through the relevant BBS regional team confirming clearances obtained at the correct level, this can be relied on and accepted.
  • Those newly recruited to the NHS (or requiring a new check) to work in regulated activity will be eligible for a free and fast track check.

Vaccinator / pandemic immuniser -  responsibilities include administration of the vaccine. The provision of healthcare is regarded as regulated activity and therefore the role is eligible for an enhanced DBS check with adults barred list information. If the role will also involve the vaccination of children, it will be eligible for a check against the children's barred list too.

Vaccination care / support volunteer - responsibilities include the care of people that are unwell as a result of the vaccination process or have suffered an allergic reaction to the vaccine. The provision of healthcare is regarded as regulated activity and therefore the role is eligible for enhanced DBS check with adults barred list information. If the role will also involve providing care to children, it will be eligible for a check against the children's barred list too.

Patient advocate - responsibilities include meeting and greeting people attending the vaccination site, explaining the process to people and providing pre and post care (observation). The role involves face-to-face interactions with patients who visit the vaccination site and entering patient areas. The role is therefore eligible for a standard DBS check.

Clinical supervisor - responsibilities include day-to-day management of clinical staff providing healthcare which is regarded as regulated activity. The role is therefore eligible for for an enhanced DBS check with barred list information. 

Vaccination admin and/or reception support - responsibilities include providing administrative support, recording vaccination consent, managing vaccination records and reception support at a vaccination site. The role involves face-to-face interactions with patients who visit the vaccination site and entering patient areas to collect or deliver patient records. The role is therefore eligible for a standard DBS check. If the role will purely involve having access to patient identifiable data but no access to patients, then it would not be eligible for a standard disclosure but you may wish to consider whether it would be appropriate to obtain a basic DBS disclosure. 

Cleaner - carrying out cleaning duties when considered in isolation, are not eligible for a DBS check. However, if duties are concerned with ensuring hygiene and cleanliness of patient areas to reduce risk of spreading infection and will allow direct contact and interaction with patients located on a vaccination site, the role is eligible for a standard check.

Current staff taking on additional of different duties

Where NHS staff are being redeployed and will be taking on additional or different duties, employers will need to assess whether or not a new DBS check may be needed based on the roles responsibilities, and level of contact with patients. NHS Employers' DBS eligibility tool and scenario based examples helps employers determine whether a check is required and at what level.

Recruiting from overseas 

Where recruiting from overseas, there may be a continued requirement to obtain an overseas police check or certificate of good conduct. Employers will need to follow pre-existing guidance in regard to obtaining an overseas police check as outlined in the criminal record check standard.

Wherever practically possible, employers should ask applicants to obtained an overseas police certificate from the relevant authority while they are in their residing country to avoid any unnecessary delays to recruitment.  

Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Employers

  • A personalised website
    Manage your profile and select topics of interest to you
  • Access your dashboard
    Bookmark useful content to help you quickly find what you're looking for
  • Get involved
    Contribute to our Talking Points discussions, comment on and rate our webpages
  • Keep up to date
    Receive the latest newsletters and media summaries

Log In