If your business lies within health and social care services in England, then you’ll need to make sure you remain compliant with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) rules and regulations. Failure to do so can result in stiff penalties, so those working within the sector must make absolutely certain they follow all guidelines; otherwise, they could face being closed down.

CQC Requirements for Reference Checks in the Healthcare Sector

Part of these regulations involve background checks for healthcare workers, and as you can imagine, these are very strict. This article will go through the CQC requirements for reference checks, why they are so important, and how organisations can use automated reference checking software to remain compliant and save resources.

Why are reference checks so important in the healthcare sector?

Reference checks are important for every industry. They confirm that a person is telling the truth on their application, that they’re a good fit for the position, and can uncover potential red flags in an individual’s history. 

Reference checks are particularly important in the healthcare sector, where staff are responsible for the care and safety of vulnerable people. Failure to properly vet candidates can have serious consequences, including abuse, neglect, and patient harm.

As you can imagine, the CQC takes reference checks very seriously. In fact, they’re mandatory. The CQC's Regulation 19, Fit and proper persons employed, requires healthcare providers to ensure that all staff employed to provide regulated activities are ‘fit and proper’ persons. To stay compliant,  providers must operate robust recruitment procedures, with reference checks being a requirement. 

Those who fail to adhere to CQC requirements may lead to the CQC questioning the fitness of the provider. While it can’t prosecute for breaching Regulation 19, the CQC can take regulatory action and can even move straight to prosecution without warning if a provider breaches regulations that carry offence clauses.

What are the CQC's specific requirements for reference checks?

As we’ve seen, failure to comply with the CQC will lead to serious consequences, so what do healthcare providers need to know about reference checks?

While the CQC does not specify a particular format for reference checks, providers are expected to ensure that the checks they conduct are robust and thorough. This can be accomplished by checking the following:

Conducting reference checks

Employers in the health and social care sector must check references for all candidates before hiring them. This helps to ensure that candidates have the necessary skills, experience, and character to provide safe and high-quality care.

References should be from direct supervisors or managers and should cover the candidate's employment history, behaviour, reliability, and ability to meet expectations. By obtaining detailed references from reliable sources, employers can be confident that they are hiring suitable candidates.

Checking references can help to identify any red flags or concerns about a candidate before they are employed, which can help protect patients and service users from harm.

Verify qualifications and registration

Verifying professional qualifications and registration is essential for ensuring that only qualified individuals are employed in health and social care roles. 

Employers should check each candidate's registration number with the relevant professional body or regulator. They should also check that any post-qualification experience is current and relevant to the role.

Conducting Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks

DBS checks are required by the CQC for all staff in health and social care services. Employers must complete these checks before their employees start work and must make sure to keep up to date with new regulations. DBS checks help to protect vulnerable groups from harm by identifying individuals who may have a criminal history or be unsuitable for the role.

Employers must ensure that the information provided in DBS checks is accurate and up-to-date and that it covers all relevant offences. They must also verify the applicant's identification documents.

Verifying employment history

Just as in any sector, employers working within health and social care must carefully verify an applicant's employment history before hiring them. This is to ensure that the candidate has no unresolved issues from prior work, such as safeguarding concerns, that could make them unsuitable for the role.

Verifying employment history is essential for hiring qualified and successful employees, and employers should take extra precautions in this sector due to the vulnerability of the people being cared for.

Conducting identity checks

Identity checks are essential for UK employers to prevent illegal work and protect the integrity of health and social care services. They are also a legal requirement.

Identity checks also help to ensure that job seekers' rights are respected and that job requirements are clearly established. Ultimately, identity checks are a key part of creating an effective and ethical workplace.

Making sure your business is CQC compliant is critical to avoid prosecution, but it doesn’t have to be complicated or time-consuming. In fact, tools like automation referencing software can help. RefNow, the UK’s number one reference checking software, provides an audit log of each attempted contact made to candidates and referees via email, text, and automated phone calls. As mentioned above, having an audit trail is actually one of the key benefits for companies that are CQC-regulated.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg. If you want more in-depth information about how reference checking software can help your business remain CQC compliant, please check out our other blog post.

If you would like to learn more about how RefNow's automated Employment Referencing software can help your organisation, reach out to us today and get your first 5 checks free.