Service Check Register update

15-May-2020

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ASMOF thanks members for providing feedback to the Revised Service Check Policy Directive provided by the Ministry which was circulated to Members in Friday News on 7th April.

That feedback has now been collated and forwarded to the Ministry.

Key points in ASMOF’s Response incorporating Members’ feedback:

General Comments :

Although the proposed revised Service Check Register policy directive is in many ways a significant improvement on the existing policy directive, without the ability of a person to know in detail the matters considered in creating the risk assessment, and without the right to an independent external review there are serious risks that employees will be continue to be entered onto the Service Check Register inappropriately, and have no effective means of challenging the entry to their significant detriment

Policy Statement :

The test for Service Check Registry entry appears on the face reasonable: “reasonable suspicion of a finding of misconduct and high level of risk management action..” but this needs to be reinforced to emphasise that there are objective tests to underpin these, otherwise the existing and unacceptable approach of making an entry solely on the basis of an allegation and “tick the box” risk assessment will continue.

Possibly the test in 3.1: “Service Check Register must be created, and may only be created, for alleged or substantiated serious misconduct and when specific action, as outlined below…” would be more appropriate.

There is no discussion of transitional arrangements. While paragraphs 5 & 6 of the Summary of Policy Requirements appear to detail the process for entries made under the new policy, it is unclear if the same review processes will apply to entries made under the current policy.

Key Definitions :

The Definition of “serious misconduct”: there is some concern regarding wording ‘ conduct by any staff member that raises serious concerns about the safety of patients’ .

Unlike the other preceding four dot points which explicitly define misconduct in relation to existing policy and legal framework, the definition of “serious concerns about patients’ safety“ is not adequately defined by references to existing policy frameworks. In particular, “serious concerns about patients’ safety” does not explicitly refer to the Severity Assessment Code (SAC) scale and Incident Management System (IMS) PD2019_034. The Severity Assessment Code (SAC) scale is used as part of the Incident Management System (IMS) PD2019_034 to assess the seriousness of the patient safety concern.

Lack of such explicit references that mandate application of SAC Scale and the IMS PD2019_034 may result in arbitrary, disproportionate and unfair determinations of patient concerns. This consequently may contribute in unreasonable applications and misuse of the SCR.

Section 3: Creating, Updating & Reviewing Records :

3.1 does not provide clear criteria for conducting the risk assessment.

3.3: The condition “The removal of a record cannot form a part of any agreements or settlements in industrial disputes or the like” is unreasonable and unacceptable to ASMOF, as essentially any settlement of an industrial dispute will involve a significant review & assessment of the factual basis for the entry.

Section 4: Reviewing Records :

In the absence of the risk assessment, a person placed on the service check register is unable to make a properly informed review of an entry. It is essential for the risk assessment to be provided to the employee concerned to enable the necessary procedural fairness of allowing a person the opportunity to provide a factual or contextual correction to the risk assessment.

The policy must provide a clear dispute mechanism which can be escalated to an external body such as the Industrial Relations Commission or NCAT rather than the limited internal and self-referential process provided by s 4.1

4.1: 20 working days is an unreasonably long period for a review to occur when a person’s livelihood and professional reputation are in the balance. Given that request for review will invariably provide at least an outline of the submissions for removal of the entry, 10 working days would be the maximum a matter of this gravity should need to be assessed.

Section 5- Using the Service Check Register & Misconduct Processes :

5.1.2: ASMOF is concerned at the lack of detail about how the risk assessment required in point 5.1.2 will be applied. There is a concern that notwithstanding the statement that “An existing Service Check Register record does not mean the person cannot be employed or engaged”, it is probable that an application with an SCR entry will be culled without further ado. This is of particular concern in the absence of an objective and effective review/appeal procedure.

5.2 ASMOF has concerns regarding S 5.2 which mandates review of the Service Check Register when considering disciplinary action. In ASMOF’s view this extends the power/opportunity for a public health organisation to consider matters outside the matter directly being investigated, creating an unreasonable burden on an employee, given that the context of the entry on the Register will not be obvious, & will allow investigators & decision makers to go on extended safaris in search of “evidence”.

ASMOF provided a response to the Ministry on 1st May following collating feedback & comments from Members, Councillors & Staff, and will advise members when there is any communication from the Ministry regarding the Service Check Register