The NSW Health Service Check Register
Under the terms of the NSW Health Policy Directive Service Check Register for NSW Health Services, dated 30 January 2009, all full-time, part-time, temporary and casual staff of the NSW Health Service and all visiting practitioners must be checked against the state Service Check Register (SCR) as part of a recruitment process or prior to finalising actions arising out of a disciplinary process. This policy does not apply to affiliated health organisations or volunteers.
The SCR is an electronic state-wide database containing records of actions taken during or at the conclusion of an investigation into a serious disciplinary matter, as opposed to behavioural or performance issues not involving unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct. According to NSW Health, the role of the SCR is to alert staff involved in recruitment or in disciplinary processes to the existence of previous matters that may be relevant when making an offer of employment or appointment or when finalising a disciplinary process, and inclusion in the register will not automatically preclude a person from employment or appointment.
When a Health Service places restrictions on a staff member or visiting practitioner’s duties or clinical privileges either:
- as a risk management strategy (arising out of a documented risk assessment) pending the completion of an investigation into a serious disciplinary matter;
- or as the result of a recommendation made at the completion of an investigation into a serious disciplinary matter;
- the staff member’s or visiting practitioner’s name must be placed on the SCR.
A serious disciplinary matter is defined to be a disciplinary matter involving an allegation which, if proven, involves serious sex or violence offences (carrying a possible penalty of 12 months or more imprisonment) or unsatisfactory professional conduct or professional misconduct as referred to in s117 of the Health Services Act 1997.
There may be instances where a member of staff or a visiting practitioner resigns from his or her position before an investigation of an alleged disciplinary matter has concluded. Under the terms of the Policy Directive, the Health Service is obliged to complete the investigation despite the resignation. The health professional concerned has the right to a timely investigation of the matter, and be afforded the opportunity to respond to allegations and any potentially adverse findings prior to finalisation of the investigation.
Restrictions placed on visiting practitioners by one Health Service at the conclusion of an investigation will not automatically apply if the practitioner moves to another Health Service or hospital. The new workplace, will however, be required to conduct a risk assessment and to make a decision if the restrictions are necessary in the new workplace.
NSW Health Service staff and visiting practitioners involved in a serious disciplinary matter must be notified if they are added to the SCR, or if their record is amended or removed. A record must be amended or removed if all restrictions relating to the person are removed; a suspension is lifted; or dismissal, termination or non-renewal of a contract is overturned. Once a record has been removed from the SCR, no history will be available to users of the SCR that a record for the individual concerned ever existed. Individuals also have the right to request a review by the Chief Executive of a Health Service (or their delegate) if they do not believe the record should have been created.
Those health professionals included in the SCR because they have restrictions imposed on their normal duties by one Health Service and then move to a new Health Service, may request a review of the currency of the restrictions and their SCR record after a 12 month period.
The SCR contains sensitive information, and only people holding certain positions and with certain responsibilities will be permitted to access the SCR.
The Policy Directive makes it clear that the SCR is for the use of the NSW Public Health system only and an external agency cannot make an inquiry of the SCR. A Health Service must only exchange information directly sourced from the SCR with another Health Service obliged to comply with the Policy Directive or the NSW Department of Health.
NSW Health will conduct a review of the SCR in 18 months time.
A copy of the Service Check Register for NSW Health Services Policy Directive (PD2009_004) is available on the NSW Health website.
Dominique Egan, Partner