STAFF at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary have still not undergone criminal checks, four months after the Evening News revealed that private operator Consort had failed to carry them out.
The company failed to complete Disclosure Scotland checks on its 521 members of staff at the hospital in Little France, who work in non-medical roles, and 57 workers have still not been checked. Consort pledged to begin the checks when the problem was revealed in January, and it was thought the process would take four to six weeks.
Consort admitted today, however, that, four months on, one in ten of its staff remain unchecked.
It said the outstanding cases were due to matters such as long-term sickness, maternity leave and staff turnover, but that the 57 who had not yet been checked were all currently eligible to work.
Consort hospital manager Shona Dryburgh said: “We can confirm that the latest figures we have represents 89 per cent of the total staff who have now undertaken the Disclosure Scotland process. Four hundred and sixty-four staff out of a total of 521 completed the process. Twelve merited further checks, and of that 12 only two required further assessment.
“The outstanding cases are due to a variety of matters such as long-term sickness, maternity leave and staff turnover. We can say on the two individuals requiring further assessment their cases did not require any disciplinary action.
“It would be wrong to prejudge the remaining staff who are still to complete the Disclosure Scotland process.”
Ms Dryburgh said the two staff members who had required further assessment had later been cleared to continue in their positions.
She added: “Disclosure Scotland have been extremely helpful in the process and we now have a system in place where all new staff automatically go through the procedure.”
The fact that Consort had failed to carry out the background checks only came to light when NHS Lothian asked the firm to check the background of an employee.
Since the mistake was revealed, staff who had not been checked have been required by NHS Lothian to work in pairs to minimise any risk.
Lothian branch chairman for Unison, Tom Waterson, said: “We’re extremely disappointed that, despite promises from Consort that this would have been done, they still haven’t completed this exercise.
“They should be mindful that they have a duty of care to the patients in the Royal Infirmary and to NHS Lothian, who pay them upwards of £56 million a year for their services.”
The failure to complete the checks was also criticised by Margaret Watt, chairwoman of the Scotland Patients Association, who said: “I’d like to know what part of their contract they don’t understand. Was it written in Swahili or something?
“How dare they? The impudence of them, putting people into any part of our hospital that have not been checked out. Why are we putting up with this incompetence? Our patients’ safety could be at risk.”
George Curley, acting director of facilities for NHS Lothian, said: “We have instructed PFI provider Consort to carry out background checks on all sub-contracted staff, not just new employees, working in the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.
“NHS Lothian will continue to monitor the process until the last checks are finalised.
“We understand no members of staff have been dismissed as a result of these findings. Existing security arrangements will remain in place until the process is complete.”
BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE FRANCE
The lack of security checks was one of a number of blunders by Consort in the past year.
In December, a father had to use the torch app on his mobile phone to find his newborn son in a birthing pool after lights failed in the hospital’s birthing centre.
In February, the News revealed that Consort had failed to tell NHS Lothian that the ERI was left with reduced security cover for three days, and shortly afterwards it emerged that the firm had failed to tell the health board smoke alarms around ten operating theatres had been broken for eight days.
In March, an operation had to be completed by torchlight after Consort staff switched off the power to an operating theatre in the middle of surgery.