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Alness and Invergordon Medical Practice faces fresh crisis over staff vetting as NHS Highland looks into shortfalls on Disclosure Scotland and Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) registration


By Hector MacKenzie

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Robertson Health Centre. Picture: James Mackenzie
Robertson Health Centre. Picture: James Mackenzie

A TROUBLED Easter Ross medical practice at the centre of a staff recruitment crisis is now facing a fresh crisis over the proper vetting of employees.

As reported earlier this month, Alness and Invergordon Medical Practice faced calls for a full inquiry amid mounting concern about treatment of patients.

NHS Highland took over responsibility for the practice at the beginning of February and yesterday acknowledged shortfalls in relation to Disclosure Scotland and Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) registration.

The vetting procedure is standard practice across many organisations in which staff are working with children or vulnerable people and is intended as a protective safeguard.

"There is no suggestion at all that individual colleagues are at fault and this is not linked to their professional qualification or registration or standards of practice. Despite the challenging and uncertain situation at the practice, they have continued to provide quality care and support to patients." – NHS Highland

NHS Highland said the transfer of responsibility on February 1 "took place sooner than planned and so we have been working through the usual steps of the pre-transfer process and due diligence retrospectively".

It said: "This week it came to light that the practice have not been fully complying with their legal requirements in respect of Disclosure Scotland and Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) registration for all applicable roles which they employed.

"Independent practices are responsible for ensuring all the necessary checks are carried out and maintained, as part of their contract for the provision of services with NHS Highland. With appropriate notice, records are able to be checked before responsibility passes to NHS Highland, however this was not possible, as there have been challenges obtaining records.

"This situation came to light because as a new employer, NHS Highland has to obtain an updated check for all those eligible. We would like to reinforce that this is a responsibility of the employer, not the individual, and this is not in any way a reflection of the professional care and standards which colleagues at the practice provide.

"There is no suggestion at all that individual colleagues are at fault and this is not linked to their professional qualification or registration or standards of practice. Despite the challenging and uncertain situation at the practice, they have continued to provide quality care and support to patients."

NHS Highland said that since becoming aware of the issue, it is "undertaking a full and dynamic risk assessment process" and has put in place all necessary oversight and mitigation, balancing the care and support needs of patients with additional supervision and professional support. The new certificates will be issued "as a priority".

NHS Highland said yesterday: "We would like to apologise to all patients who were affected by the short notice cancellation of appointments today.

"There may need to be some further disruption to services whilst we work through the process, but we will ensure this is kept to a minimum. We will continue to ensure that we deliver safe and effective care to our patients whilst we work through resolving this situation."

Anyone with questions or comments is asked to direct them to the feedback team at nhshighland.feedback@nhs.scot

RELATED: Strongman Luke Stoltman calls for probe over patient care at Easter Ross practice


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