Bedlam 180x120It is estimated by the Mental Health Foundation that in the course of one year, one in four people will be affected by some form of mental health issue. With this increasing demand on our care services, the pressure to train and provide a substantial workforce of care providers is higher than ever. Rachel Hurley reports:

It’s no secret the daily struggle mental health professionals face pushes them to the limit both emotionally and often physically. The sheer volume of clients they face means that no two patients are the same; yet these professionals do their utmost to ensure that everyone is treated as an individual.

Whilst you may not expect anyone to apply for a role with mental health patients who isn’t passionate about providing top-quality care, there are unfortunately some rogue individuals who slip through the net.

It is unfathomable to most, but abuse is an issue that sometimes creeps into the industry. Whether people sign up with an intention to abuse vulnerable people, or allow their position of power to go to their head; a small minority of those in the mental health profession do not always have their patients’ best interests at heart. Frustratingly, it can be almost impossible to recognise when someone with a mental health issue is showing the signs of abuse by someone employed to care for them, especially in cases where the abuse is psychological.

There have been numerous high-profile cases where mental health professionals have been exposed for horrific injustices against those in need of help. The most unsuspecting people can hide the darkest secrets. Whilst it’s something a lot of people don’t want to discuss, this very real problem is arguably becoming much more prevalent in society, as mental health issues become more recognised.

High-profile cases of abuse are simply the tip of the iceberg and people who fear their loved ones are being mistreated are starting to use hidden cameras to garner evidence of any incidents. In a survey by Granada Reports, around 96% of people said they would choose to secretly film proceedings if they suspected their loved ones were being subjected to abuse.

No matter how small a role someone plays in looking after your loved one, be it a district nurse who pops in once a week, or a family friend who keeps them company whilst you’re at work; anyone with access to the vulnerable should be properly vetted before circumstances such as this arise. This month Personnel Checks are raising awareness of the precautionary measures you can put in place to reduce the risk of these issues, and what aspiring professionals can do to ensure they have the correct credentials when applying for roles as security measures increase across the industry.

It is imperative that employers know the criminal history of anyone entering the industry and that you do not have a previous record of violent behaviour. The sad fact is, these easy online DBS checks can often be disregarded or not completed regularly enough to find evidence of deviant behaviour.

Whilst we know that a DBS check doesn’t show the full story, it can provide a vital safety net for patients and invaluable insight for employers.

You should not be afraid of declaring offences as a health care professional, although it is a serious matter. For example, the Nursing & Midwifery Council does not necessarily discount applications from anyone with a criminal conviction. They advise that a positive reference from your line manager during renewal period could bolster your chances once charges and cautions have been reviewed. Some bodies are willing to take one-off charges into consideration and often look for patterns of offending rather than scrutinising minor offences from many years ago.

However, any roles that involve caring for the vulnerable are exempt from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, meaning care homes have a right to refuse applications from those with a history of serious offences.

Anyone looking for a job in the mental health care industry should be armed with an up-to-date DBS check, formally known as CRB check, to ensure proceedings are not held up.

As an employer, you’ll be able to pre-vet candidates based on not just the professional image they show on their CV, but also by their uncovered criminal history. Whilst your candidate may think that a caution they received a while ago is something minor and not how they behave any more, you must take it into consideration as it does show that they are capable of breaking the law.

Surely it makes sense to check a candidate’s criminal history before wasting time training and integrating them into a team, only to put your staff and clients at risk? For the peace of mind of your clients and their relatives, a DBS check shows them that you’re putting their needs first.

Whilst we understand that someone could still misbehave despite being clear of convictions, this is an indisputable way of vetting staff that could pose a harm to clients. It simply acts as a filter and ensures you’re doing all you can to protect staff before an incident occurs. A DBS check might not stop these rare occurrences from happening, but in many cases they can reduce risk and ensure you're not putting anyone in harm’s way. After all, we have a duty of care and those suffering from mental illness deserve that extra level of protection.