Belfast nursing home designed 'disclaimer form' so staff could work without vetting

Our Lady's Home Our Lady's Home on the Falls Road told new staff they could begin work straight away if they signed a 'disclaimer form'

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The health regulator has discovered that a Belfast nursing home designed a form that allowed staff to start work without being fully vetted.

According to RQIA inspectors, Our Lady's Home on the Falls Road created a so-called "disclaimer form".

The home told new employees that by signing it they could begin work straight away.

The BBC can reveal that serious questions were asked over the lack of references among some staff members.

The home is owned by the Catholic diocese of Down and Connor.

When approached by the BBC, a diocesan spokesperson said: "Immediate action is being taken by the management of Our Lady's Home to ensure that all staff are recruited and employed in accordance with statutory legislation and mandatory requirements."

Our Lady's Nursing Home, in Beechmount, cares for some of the most elderly and vulnerable people in the area. Around 100 people use the facilities.

It also runs a day centre for men and women with dementia.

Inspection

The RQIA, which regulates the health sector, described the managerial breaches as "serious".

They included failing to obtain character references or carrying out pre-employment health and fitness checks.

While the home employs around 130 people, according to the RQIA it's not clear how many of those references have been officially checked.

An inspection was triggered after a member of the public asked the RQIA for details of an Access NI Disclaimer form.

The caller told RQIA that the form would allow them to work in the home without having to complete Access NI vetting, which is Northern Ireland's criminal record disclosure service.

The unannounced inspection at the start of June also found that the acting manager had not attended any training in staff recruitment.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church told the BBC that those staff members affected had been stood down from duties until the vetting process is complete.

Joyce McKee said it was "serious" that the home had not carried out proper vetting

It added that it is strengthening its monitoring systems.

"The trustees can confirm that those members of staff who, while vetted through Access NI in previous employment, still await confirmation of the outcome of Access NI checks to enable them to work in Our Lady's Home have been stood down from duties until the vetting process is completed.

"The management of Our Lady's Home is also strengthening its recruitment and monitoring systems to ensure it meets all statutory requirements."

The Health and Social Care board has described the breach as serious.

Joyce McKee, an adult safeguarding officer, said the public and especially the elderly must be assured that they are being properly looked after.

"The most vulnerable people in our society deserve the best possible care and the way to ensure they receive that care is to have appropriate procedures in place.

"Pre-employment checking is part of that process but it's disappointing as well as serious to note that any organisation has failed to comply with that particular standard."

The regulators have given the nursing home until the 22 July to comply with all the regulations.

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