Headlines: February 26th, 2010

Operations and outpatient appointments for children are being cancelled across the country because of the chaotic introduction of new Government safeguarding regulations. In a report today the Royal College of Surgeons says that in spite of repeated warnings surgeons cannot move between health trusts quickly enough to deal with rare cases and to cover absences.

The Royal College is calling for an immediate roll out of passport-style arrangements that would allow health service staff who have already undergone an enhanced Criminal Records Bureau check for one trust to be recognised across the NHS.

The RCS says that despite flagging up the problem to Ministers and senior staff at the Department of Health in the last three months, there has been no action. This has left specialised surgeons restricted to working at one site without the flexibility to move at short notice to assist colleagues with rare or emergency operations.

It accepts that the new Vetting & Barring scheme rightly sets new higher standards for checking all those working with children but the system to deal with this additional demand will not come into full force for four years. The RCS says trusts are being overly cautious and demanding that NHS surgeons who have enhanced checks go through the process each and every time they work in a different Trust, which can take several months. Some trainee surgeons, it says, have had more than 10 separate CRB checks in just two years.

The President of The Royal College, John Black, said: “The College have flagged up this situation with Government on three separate occasions in a three month period, and we were reassured that a solution would be reached within a week. That surgeons are still faced with this situation is simply unbelievable.”