Over the last year, the DBS has been quick to respond to the challenges faced by the health and social care sector when dealing with the Covid 19 pandemic. A recent change announced by the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) should make recruitment across the healthcare sector easier, or at least ease the administrative burden for HR staff.

A consultation process was announced ahead of the proposed changes in December 2020, with workshops taking place online throughout January for interested recruitment professionals across the healthcare sector. The idea of the workshops is to share details of the proposed system with the people who will be involved in its day-to-day use, and to get feedback on any improvements required before the system goes live.



Staff working for the NHS or in the private care sector have always had their references checked as part of the recruitment process. This is in addition to the standard checks of right to work which establishes nationality, and a DBS check. For most positions working in hospitals, care homes, schools or similar establishments, applicants will need an enhanced disclosure check. This is the most detailed level of checking, and the police will look at someone’s spent convictions and cautions in addition to their more recent police record. And that’s in addition to the application form, interviews and health checks which might be required.

Healthcare has traditionally had an issue in obtaining good quality references for people applying for roles in hospitals or private settings. Getting a reference is essential for proving that an applicant has actually worked in the role they are claiming, and to tie up exact dates of employment to those stated on a CV. However, there is no legal requirement for a previous employer to provide a reference, and many employers just don’t bother. Furthermore, a reference for health and care staff must go above and beyond the basics of dates worked and job title, as the Care Quality Commission (CQC) require that employers ask about evidence of conduct too. Insufficient information on references ties up a lot of administration time in chasing up previous employers, and can lead to extensive delays in getting new staff into position.

Temporary arrangements put in place due to COVID-19, including the introduction of our 24-hour emergency Barred Lists checks, have resulted in an increased need for satisfactory social care references, and evidence of conduct. Our COVID-19 Barred Lists checks allow individuals working in eligible roles to commence employment prior to receipt of the full DBS certificate, so references and other elements of safe recruitment are essential.


Consultation and workshops

In light of the above, DBS is working with the above-mentioned partners to hold an online consultation and several workshops which will then inform the development of a number of resources – all of which aim to assist social care and health employers where references and evidence of conduct are involved.
The workshops will:

  • provide further information about the project
  • examine the barriers and challenges that employers face in gathering and providing references and evidence of conduct
  • look at any ideas that participants have for improving referencing within the social care and health sector, or any practices that currently work well within their organisation