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Caleb – Knowing that it was possible to challenge an ineligible criminal record check led to me getting a job in the NHS

Caleb contacted our helpline as he was concerned that a recruitment agency were going to carry out an ineligible criminal record check.

Caleb explained that he had a spent conviction for criminal damage from 2016. He’d always been very embarrassed about it and found it difficult to talk about and, it was for this reason that he made a point of only applying for jobs which required a basic DBS check (where his spent conviction would no longer appear).

After signing on with a recruitment agency, he’d just been offered an administrative role working for the NHS. The job was located in an office block in the city centre, miles away from the nearest hospital and, having checked the NHS website, Caleb had been pleased to see that he would only need a basic DBS check. However, he’d been told that for the first three months he would be employed by the recruitment agency before being taken on permanently by the NHS. The agency told him that they would be doing a standard DBS check and he was now considering whether to disclose his spent conviction to the NHS or turn the job down.

We advised that from the information provided, it appeared that the role would only be eligible for a basic DBS check and we advised Caleb not to disclose his conviction to the agency or the NHS at this stage. We suggested that when he went to the agency to complete the paperwork for his DBS check, he take a print out of the information on the NHS site which referred to a basic check and ask why the agency were doing a standard check for this particular role. If the agency insisted that a standard check were needed, we explained how Caleb could agree to the check and then immediately raise an eligibility query with the DBS. If the DBS found that the check was ineligible it would be stopped and the agency informed that the only criminal record check they could do would be a basic.

Caleb contacted us a couple of weeks later and said:

I did exactly as Unlock advised and flagged up my concerns to the agency, showing them the information that I’d printed off the NHS site. The agency went ahead and did a basic check and of course, this came back completely blank. I started my new job a couple of weeks later.”



There’s a lot of confusion around criminal record checks and it’s often assumed that where somebody is employed by the NHS, then a standard or enhanced DBS check should always be carried out. However, as can be seen from this case, where an individual will not be working in a hospital setting and won’t have access to patients, then it’s only necessary for a basic check to be carried out.

Had the agency gone ahead with a standard DBS check then not only would they have acted unlawfully by carrying out an ineligible check, they would also have breached data protection legislation by collecting and processing excessive data.


Notes about this case study

This case study relates to Unlock’s helpline.

Names and details have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.

Published March 2020.


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