Care homes are experiencing delays in applications for
registration and for criminal record checks on new employees,
writes David Brown.
After just a month of operation the National Care Standards
Commission has admitted that it has a backlog of unprocessed
The commission has suffered delays since its launch on April 1
because many of its regional offices were not ready to open.
To avoid confusion it centralised the processing of applications
at its national headquarters in Newcastle. Most of the 71 regional
officers are now operating, and have been sent the part-processed
A NCSC helpline operated by four staff was inundated with up to
1,500 requests a day in early April, and the commission was forced
to employ a call centre to handle the queries.
It has received 11,000 applications for new registrations, many
of them for care home managers. Priority is being given to new
providers, and other registrations could take several weeks.
An NCSC spokesperson said: “We are asking people to be patient.
We have already made enormous progress, and are on track to meet
Sheila Scott, head of the National Care Homes Association, said:
“I have got a great deal of sympathy for the commission, but I have
even more sympathy for those homes waiting for registration.
“However, I am delighted that the commission is keeping us
informed of the problems rather than leaving us in the dark.”
Care homes are also facing delays of up to five weeks in
applications for the criminal record checks from the Criminal
Records Bureau required before they can employ a new member of
The NCSC has issued interim guidance on recruitment following
concerns that delays would mean that some homes would be penalised
for being understaffed.
The guidance, which is not applicable for any children’s
services, includes the requirement for “robust and rigorous”
checks, and that new employees sign a declaration that they do not
have a criminal record.
Scott said: “It is extremely helpful and I would like to see it
remain in place even if the current difficulties are solved.”
But Frank Ursell, chief executive of the Registered Nursing Home
Association, said: “I think the government should defer the
introduction of criminal record checks until the system has had a
chance to bed-in.”
Ursell was concerned that the interim arrangements would place a
huge administrative burden on care homes, and increase the work
pressure on the NCSC’s regional offices.
He feared that the current problems might not be solved by the
time the estimated one million existing care home staff are
required to have their criminal records checked by next April.
A Criminal Records Bureau spokesperson said it hoped by the end
of June to reach its target of processing 90 per cent of ‘enhanced’
applications within three weeks and basic applications within seven