One of the newer roles in the NHS is that of social prescriber, so it’s perhaps understandable that the exact nature of the role and duties are widely misunderstood. If you’re applying for a role as a social prescriber, or have responsibility for recruiting one, here’s everything you need to know about DBS checks and how they might apply in your situation.


What Does a Social Prescriber Do?

You will usually find people working as social prescribers in GP surgeries, health centres or other part of the NHS. They don’t prescribe medication, but instead it’s their job to point both patients and medical professionals in the direction of other services which might help. A social prescriber could be the link between patients and dementia support groups, counselling services, or help patients access help with their care needs after leaving hospital.


Level of DBS Checks for Social Prescribers

Most social prescribers will need at least a standard DBS check to carry out their role of signposting patients and staff members to other services which might help them. As no direct guidance or support is being provided by the social prescriber, this role doesn’t fall into the bracket of enhanced disclosure.

However, these roles are often blurred and depending on the GP practice or health centre, the social prescriber may find themselves giving advice on lifestyle or other healthcare issues to patients. This crosses the line into regulated activity, and as such people in this sort of social prescriber role will probably need an enhanced DBS check.

The social prescriber does not have the responsibility of choosing which level of DBS check to have or working out which they feel is most appropriate based on their work activities. That’s the job of the employer, and the NHS trusts and management should be able to provide detailed guidance to support practice managers and other healthcare staff through the process.


Getting a DBS Check

The good news is that as one of the UK’s biggest employers, the NHS submits thousands of DBS checks each year, and has plenty of support staff who know the application process inside out and back to front. Whatever the role under consideration, the process is broadly the same. First, the applicant fills in the form, usually online, giving all of their previous convictions and personal details. Next, a manager will check their identity documents match with the person, and with the details being given on the form. The DBS then looks at the form again, rejecting any which have slipped through the net and are incomplete, or wrongly completed.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, applications from all areas of the NHS, and for people working in health and social care, were given priority. There is no news currently about how long this priority will be continued. Workers may be allowed to start their new job while an application is pending, but this is by no means guaranteed and will depend on the nature of the work. Maximise your chances of getting your certificate back quickly by taking care over completion of the form and get help if you’re stuck.