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COVID-19: Key information for healthcare providers and their workforce

The latest updates that providers and their workforce should be aware of

Health and social care providers and their workforce are facing significant challenges due to the Coronavirus (“COVID-19”) global pandemic. New information and guidance is being published nonstop in response and it is important that providers and their workforce are kept well-informed. Below is a brief outline on recent guidance for the sector.

E-learning programme for the health and social care workforce

Health Education England have published an e-learning programme for the health and social care workforce in response to COVID-19.

The programme consists of a range of guidance, resources and information for health and social care staff currently working during the pandemic. It includes essential guidance from the NHS, UK Government, World Health Organisation and BMJ on infection prevention and control together with resources for staff working in critical care settings, acute hospital settings and primary care and community settings. This programme is freely available to colleagues working in the NHS, Independent sector and social care. Providers are advised to ensure their staff are made aware of the programme. Further information can be found here: https://www.e-lfh.org.uk/programmes/coronavirus/

Care Quality Commission (“CQC”) interim guidance on DBS and other recruitment checks

The CQC has issued interim guidance in response to temporary changes being made by the Disclosure and Barring Service (“DBS”) and DBS applications/processes. The primary aim is to ensure the DBS is rapidly able to meet the additional demand for checks during the pandemic. CQC is of the view that this will support health and social care providers to quickly deploy larger numbers of staff and volunteers during the current emergency. This is a considerable relaxation of the previous regime.

The guidance will be in operation for the period that the Coronavirus Act 2020 remains in force.  Providers should be familiar with the guidance and that it only applies if:

  • providers need to start staff urgently; and
  • waiting for a full DBS check could cause undue delay; and
  • this delay would lead to risks to the continuity of service, impacting on the safety and wellbeing of the people using that service.

Providers are offered a fast, free Barred List DBS check for emergency roles being recruited in response to a provider risk assessment. Enhanced DBS check information will still be processed, but will be issued afterwards. All other appointments and applications for DBS checks that are not linked to COVID-19 must be processed according to existing DBS and CQC guidance.

Of particular importance is that providers exercise diligence around all aspects of safe recruitment, including other recruitment checks they might carry out. CQC has made it clear that providers are responsible for risk assessing their situation and making decisions based on the needs of their service and people using that service during this emergency.

CQC has said they ‘understand if providers may have to assess their situation and consider starting a new member of staff or volunteer based on less evidence than they normally would’. In light of this providers are advised to be pragmatic and to make accurate written recordings of the decisions they have made, “and any risks identified along with the mitigations they will put in place”. Full details of the guidance can be found here: https://www.cqc.org.uk/guidance-providers/all-services/covid-19-interim-guidance-dbs-other-recruitment-checks

With regards to any future ramifications, providers should take note that CQC have stated “as long as providers take reasonable steps to ensure new staff are adequately supported and sufficiently supervised so that people are safe, we will not take a punitive approach”.

The situation is changing each day and it is important for everyone to keep abreast of the latest guidance. Specialist advice to help manage the workplace risks associated with COVID-19 can be provided by Weightmans’ Regulatory Team:

Hope Davis-McCallion, Solicitor

Hope.Davis-McCallion@weightmans.com

Lili Oliver, Partner

Lili.Oliver@weightmans.com

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