MORE than 300 ambulance staff dealing with patients have not been checked by the Criminal Records Bureau, the Oxford Mail can reveal today.
Last month it emerged South Central Ambulance Trust had employed Robert King as a paramedic and operations manager but no CRB check had been carried out that would have uncovered he was a convicted murderer.
The trust refused then to say how many other staff had not been checked. However under the Freedom of Information Act the Oxford Mail has discovered that 313 of 1,532 staff who deal with patients have also not had their past vetted for criminal convictions through CRB checks.
The trust has also refused to say if any staff it has checked since they have been employed have been discovered to have criminal convictions.
Oxford East MP Andrew Smith is to raise questions in Parliament on the issue.
King, from Ambrosden, had worked his way up through the ranks of the service to become a paramedic and operations manager after his release from jail for murdering a homosexual.
CRB checks were introduced to protect vulnerable people and children from contact with criminals and it is a requirement that all employees of SCAS complete one when they are hired.
The trust operates in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire and formed from two existing ambulance services merging in 2006.
Mr Smith said: “The Oxford Mail has done the public a service in uncovering the truth on the number of frontline ambulance staff who have not been properly criminally checked. “The problem is not that some staff may have a criminal record, it’s in the public interest that former criminals can turn their life round. But if the CRB hasn’t been checked, then it means the ambulance trust has not assessed the possible risks.
“I am tabling questions in Parliament about practice and performance right across the NHS in completing CRB checks.” Children’s safety expert Marilyn Hawes, of the Enough Abuse group, said SCAS’s failure to provide the information was an “absolute disgrace”.
She added: “These policies are only good if they’re followed through. “If they’re not going to say how many have come back with hits, the public will assume there has been some.”
Under CRB regulations, checks are needed on all staff with direct patient access and control room personnel, and SCAS carries out a CRB check on employees before they are signed up to work.
But it is believed the majority of the retrospective checks are being carried out on employees who joined from other trusts, before SCAS formed. It has vowed to complete the outstanding CRBs before the end of the year.
Oxford West and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood said: “I know that constituents will be worried by these CRB statistics, that is why I contacted SCAS and they have assured me that in addition to other protection mechanisms, the remaining CRB checks will be completed by the end of the year.”
When asked to provide conviction figures, a SCAS spokesman said: “We are unable to answer this question as it would take more than 18 hours to go through the 1,219 completed CRB checks that have been returned to date. It is a requirement that CRB check paperwork is destroyed after six months.
“As such, any identified conviction on the form would have been written in an individual’s personal file to ensure there was a record of it after the six months had passed.
“Therefore SCAS would have to manually go through each individual personnel file to find that information.
“CRB states that conviction will not necessarily mean exclusion from work; and convictions will be considered on an individual basis, in light of their severity, conviction date and the potential impact on the role undertaken.
“It’s extremely unlikely that SCAS would knowingly appoint someone with a serious conviction in to a role that delivers direct patient care,” he added
‘I find it extremely alarming considering paramedics go into people’s homes. I’m a volunteer at the hospital and I had to have a CRB check.’
Patients Voice chairman Jacquie Pearce-Gervis
‘The South Central Ambulance Service has completed CRB checks on about 80 per cent of its staff. It is important that it finishes the job given the vulnerable nature of the people it sometimes transports.’
Henley MP John Howell
‘They are dealing with children, adults, sick people, dying people. Frontline staff should surely be required to have a CRB check.’
County councillor and chairman of the Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee Dr Peter Skolar
‘I think it is a perfectly straightforward question to the chief executive of the South Central Ambulance Trust in that they clearly expect their staff to have CRB checks and the overwhelming majority of their staff clearly do have CRB checks. So I am slightly mystified as to how it is that a significant number of employees haven’t had CRB checks.’
The Oxford Mail also contacted Wantage MP Ed Vaizey and Witney MP David Cameron for comment, but neither provided statements.