Saturday, November 18, 2006

U.K.: Police-check fiasco stops 12,000 nurses working

Thousands of nurses and public sector staff have been left unable to work for months because of a backlog of police checks. Up to 50,000 workers, including 12,000 nurses, were caught in delays as new computer equipment meant criminal records checks were stockpiled. A row has broken out between the Metropolitan Police and the Criminal Records Bureau over who is to blame for the fiasco.

The delay occurred when the bureau installed a new computer system which was not compatible with the Met's software. It meant all new applications were stacked up until the police fitted their own new system. During that time nurses and other staff could not legally work. Agency nurse Sally Powell, from Islington, threatened to sue the police after delays meant she was unable to work for five months. A letter to her from the Met, passed to Nursing Times, said: "The problem arose because the Criminal Records Bureau went live with a computer system linking to a national database in February 2006. "The Metropolitan Police Service told the Criminal Records Bureau that its computer system would not be ready to link into this in time and that they should not send referrals on that system until the Metropolitan Police Service was live. "However the bureau went ahead anyway and the Met had no choice but to stockpile the CRB referrals."

Ms Powell, 53, filed her application in April but did not get clearance to work until September. Ms Powell, a senior nurse who has been in the NHS since 1969, said: "99.99 per cent of the time you never even need these checks but every time you change organisation you have to get it done. "I was told the check would take between four and six weeks but it took five months. I had to take work doing odd jobs. I had to freeze my mortgage because I had no money coming in. "Some nurses have had to wait for eight months and that has impoverished them. It is an infringement of my civil rights to employment as a qualified nurse. I have written to the Home Secretary." Ms Powell was told by the Met that 50,000 people had been caught up in the delay and 12,000 of those were nurses.

A spokesman for the Met said: "The technical problems which are referred to in the letter sent to Ms Powell were addressed when the MPS system went live on 2 May 2006. "There are a number of outstanding checks - however the backlog referred to has been reduced considerably. Since the new system went live the Metropolitan Police have been processing 50,000 checks a month." A spokeswoman for the Criminal Records Bureau said the problem arose as new systems were introduced and data was added to a national database. She said: "The CRB's first and foremost priority is to help protect children and vulnerable adults by assisting organisations who are recruiting people into positions of trust. "Priority must be the safety of children and vulnerable adults - neither the CRB or the Met will sacrifice quality for speed.


Australia: Old medical equipment risking public hospital patient care

The Australian Medical Association (AMA) says lives are being put in danger because of outdated equipment at regional hospitals. The AMA's Victorian president, Dr Mark Yates, says a CT scanner at the Bendigo Hospital has been breaking down continually and it was out of action for two weeks recently. He says some patients were taken to a private hospital for tests, but critically ill patients could not be moved, and had to be treated without vital diagnostic assessment. Dr Yates says doctors in Bendigo are extremely concerned about the backlog of inadequate medical equipment. "In Bendigo there's a significant problem, we've got an old piece of machinery in a hospital that is a critical trauma centre and that needs to be fixed and we certainly can't have a situation where patients are put at risk," he said.



For greatest efficiency, lowest cost and maximum choice, ALL hospitals and health insurance schemes should be privately owned and run -- with government-paid vouchers for the very poor and minimal regulation. Both Australia and Sweden have large private sector health systems with government reimbursement for privately-provided services so can a purely private system with some level of government reimbursement or insurance for the poor be so hard to do?

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