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Protection of vulnerable groups scheme update

The new law aims to make the disclosure process in Scotland simpler and easier to understand, as well as keeping vulnerable groups safer.

The Disclosure (Scotland) Act, focussed on safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, which received Royal Assent in July 2020 is now predicted to be fully implemented by 1 April 2025, rather than in 2024 as previously reported.

The Act will reduce the number of disclosure levels alongside giving Disclosure Scotland new powers to impose conditions on individuals while they are being considered for listing. Applicants will be able to request a review of certain disclosure content from an independent reviewer.

The impact for dental practices at this stage looks to be minimal. One significant change will be the replacement of lifetime Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme membership with a five-year membership period. This means that practice owners will need to check the PVG membership status of staff every five years.

Current requirements to protect vulnerable groups

You can only employ/engage:

  • Clinical staff (including a dentist, dental nurse, hygienist, therapist)
  • Practice manager
  • Director
  • Business partner
  • The husband or wife of the practice owner, if they are involved in regular management of staff.

If that staff member is a member of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme.

You must ensure that you have the correct PVG scheme record as evidence that the person is a scheme member and therefore suitable to work with vulnerable groups. Reception, administration, and cleaning staff may be checked through a standard or basic disclosure. This is not only a legal requirement, but also a requirement of the NHS Combine Practice Inspection.

You should ensure that you have the records readily available when it is time for your practice inspection. When taking on a new member of staff, you need to ensure that the person is a member of the PVG scheme, and if they are already a member, all that is required is a PVG scheme record update. However, if the person is not a member, a PVG scheme record is required.

Only a PVG scheme record update or a PVG scheme record will meet the requirements for a dental practice. A PVG scheme membership statement does not satisfy the requirements.

You will need to pay a higher tier fee level of £59 when an individual first joins the PVG scheme, such as an employee starting out as a trainee nurse for the first time. A lower fee of £18 will be payable for most PVG scheme record updates on existing scheme members, such as nurses who have already worked at another practice.

When a dentist joins a health board’s dental list, the board will need to check the individual is a member of the scheme. The practice owner that is taking on the dentist will also need to carry out the same check. This is because the dentist is engaging with two bodies, the health board, and the practice. Disclosure Scotland need to know that there are two bodies that would need to be informed if the dentist was ever removed from the scheme.

You cannot request PVG scheme information directly from Disclosure Scotland unless you have registered your business. Registering means that you will be able to countersign disclosure applications and will become what is known as a registered body. The registration fee is currently £75 per year.

Alternatively, you can get an individual’s scheme information through an umbrella organisation. In the first instance, check with your health board to see if it will act as an umbrella organisation for your practice. When a staff member leaves, Disclosure Scotland should be informed via email, so that the link to the practice through the PVG scheme can be terminated.

There is a legal obligation to inform Disclosure Scotland if there is a reasonable belief that a staff member is no longer suitable to be working with or have influence over patients. There is a three-month timeframe to make such a notification. Advice should be sought if a situation brings the suitability of an individual’s PVG scheme membership into question.

Further information

Our members can find further information in the safeguarding patients’ advice or contact our practice support team on 020 7935 0875. One-to-one advice is also available to Extra and Expert members. You can find more information from Disclosure Scotland regarding the changes to the disclosure system alongside a summary of the 2020 Act.