Professional Comment

Disclosure and Barring Service in the Care Industry

By Larry Muzondo, director of Four Oaks Healthcare and a Critical Care Registered Nurse (

DBS checks are an important safeguarding measure in the UK, but for most people on the street, they’re shrouded in mystery. To make things even more confusing, there are a number of checks available, and each reveals different information, depending on the level of check.

If you’re considering a career in care or you’re a healthcare professional looking for a new role, understanding the role of the Disclosure and Barring Service in the UK is vital. The DBS performs background checks on individuals to ensure the safety and protection of vulnerable groups such as children and adults in care settings, making care workers some of the most important individuals to conduct checks on.

To help you understand everything involved, we’re delving into DBS checks for care industry professionals, along with the legal obligations, responsibilities, and referrals associated with the DBS in care.

What is the DBS?
The Disclosure and Barring Service is a non-departmental public body of the Home Office. This government agency is responsible for processing criminal record checks and providing information to employers and organisations regarding an individual’s suitability for certain roles.

The DBS helps employers make informed decisions about hiring individuals who will work closely with vulnerable groups. While the information on a DBS check will not automatically disqualify an individual from employment, the information can be taken into consideration to ensure the safety and well-being of patients.

The DBS has three levels of checks: Basic, Standard and Enhanced. The level of check required will depend on their role, but we’ll explore this more below.

DBS Checks in the Care Sector
Within the NHS framework and other care environments, DBS checks are mandatory for individuals working in close contact with, caring for, or being responsible for children or vulnerable adults. The level of the check required depends on the nature of the role and the level of contact with vulnerable individuals. Let’s look at this in greater detail.

Enhanced DBS Checks for Care Workers
Most professional care workers must undergo an enhanced DBS check with the barring list checked for the appropriate groups. For instance, a pediatric nurse would need an enhanced DBS check with a children’s barred list check, while a live-in carer working with all groups would require an enhanced DBS check with both child and adult barring list checks.

What an Enhanced DBS Check Discloses
An enhanced DBS check is the most comprehensive criminal record check available. It reveals all spent and unspent convictions, cautions, reprimands, and warnings, providing employers with a thorough understanding of an individual’s background.

DBS Checks for Healthcare Support Workers
Not all workers in the care industry work intimately with patients. Support workers with incidental contact with patients, such as maintenance, admin, domestic, and catering staff, are generally eligible for a standard-level DBS check. This check level does not cover the adult or child-barring lists. Instead, it shows reprimands, warnings, cautions and criminal convictions which are spent. Some of these may also be filtered if they are deemed irrelevant to the position the applicant is applying for.

What are the Legal Obligations and Responsibilities?
Professionals who provide personal care to vulnerable adults or children are legally required to have an enhanced DBS check. The regulated nature of healthcare activities necessitates the highest level of background checks to ensure the safety and well-being of those in their care.

This also means that care homes and providers are legally required to run enhanced DBS checks on all applicants applying for work.

Conclusion on DBS Checks for Care Staff
The Disclosure and Barring Service play a really important role in ensuring the safety of vulnerable individuals in care settings. It provides employers with vital information about an individual’s criminal record, enabling them to make informed decisions when hiring staff. By upholding this legal obligation, employers help maintain the integrity and safety of the care sector.