In recent months, the medical profession has barely been out of the news, given the coronavirus pandemic. One of the ways in which the NHS has been trying to cope with the influx of patients is to issue an appeal for recently retired doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return. It all seems very sensible, but as many former doctor’s report, the system has not been running smoothly.


General Medical Council

All doctors who want to practice in the UK must first be registered with the General Medical Council. GMC registration is straightforward for medical students who graduate and as part of the final year process are automatically added to the GMC list. However, in a situation where doctors have been retired for several years, the process is rather more complex. The delays in getting retired doctors re-registered are partly down to a surge in medical personnel coming forward and also due to the fact that the GMC is also trying to manage staff working remotely and having people off sick. Similar issues have been flagged by doctors and nurses from outside the UK. The registration process for them is also generally smooth, but many are experiencing huge delays during lock down.


Disclosure Checks

Often, delays are placed at the door of the Disclosure and Barring Service. Is that the case presently? The situation is rather more complex at the moment. Medical students go through an enhanced disclosure process before starting their first year at University. People with an extensive criminal record who may pose a risk to the public will not be allowed to start their training in the first place. The same is true for people starting courses to become an optician, nurse, physiotherapist and other similar professions.

The situation is less clear for people who are returning to their profession. As Disclosure Certificates do not have an expiry date, there is no hard and fast rule about how long someone has to be away from the NHS before they should go through the disclosure process again. Each NHS trust is taking its own decisions, based on the type of work the returning professional will be doing.


Fast Track System

One way of helping clear the backlog of GPs and other doctors and easing the strain on the NHS is the new “fast track” DBS system. This is in two parts. Firstly, the Disclosure and Barring Service performs a quick search of the Barred Lists – the registers of people blocked from working with adults or children. Usually, results of this quick search can be turned around in 24 to 48 hours. In the overwhelming majority of cases, this search comes back clear. Doctors and other professionals can therefore start work, pending their full certificate arriving in the post. The DBS are also at present prioritising all applications from NHS staff and people working in the care sector. Checks are still being done in the same way, but NHS applications are skipping to the front of the queue.