Agency accused of using unregistered nurses

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The Independent Online
A NURSING agency is under investigation by the Home Office following allegations that it is sending dozens of unregistered nurses to work in hospitals.

The local authority in the London borough of Tower Hamlets is also conducting an inquiry into Class Care Agency Ltd, a recruitment company based in Bow, east London, after complaints by a former employee that many of the nurses on the agency's books are not properly qualified.

A former recruitment worker at the firm told The Independent that the agency - which is still sending out nurses to hospitals across London - was a "disaster waiting to happen".

He said: "My job was to recruit nurses and then assign the nurses to hospitals. I ran checks on a number of nurses and found out that they weren't registered. I was being asked to book people to do jobs they weren't qualified for.

"I was suspicious when I realised nurses were giving the same person as a reference. One man tried to join as a nurse by using my identity after my wallet had been stolen."

The former employee, who does not want to be named, added: "The agency had about 450 nurses on its books. While I was working there I checked about 150 nurses and only about 20 were registered.

"Many nurses have come here from other countries. They may be qualified in their own country but they are not qualified here."

Class Care, which also has an office in Woolwich, was set up by former directors of the discredited Selective Nursing Agency Ltd, which went into liquidation.

An investigation by Westminster City Council into Selective last year found that there were serious shortfalls in the way it vetted applicants for nursing jobs.

Joyce Akyea, who resigned as managing director of Class Care Agency in January, was also a director of the Selective Nursing Agency. Reginald Brown, believed to be her son, was also a director of Selective Nursing and is currently listed as a director of Class Care. Mr Brown yesterday denied allegations that he had sent unregistered nurses to work in hospitals to do nurses' jobs, adding: "We don't just have registered nurses. We also have auxiliary nurses, student nurses and care assistants."

He said that the former employee who had made the claims held a grudge against the agency and that his allegations were unfounded.

He added: "Tower Hamlets have got bigger reasons [for investigating] that I can't go into. It runs much deeper."

He said: "This is the first I have heard about the Home Office being involved . . . No one has told me to stop operating."

The Royal College of Nursing and Westminster City Council are currently lobbying the Government to toughen up legislation to combat the danger of unscrupulous agencies.

Bogus or under-qualified nurses can only be exposed if employers check their credentials on a confirmation telephone line operated by the United Kingdom Central Council for Nursing, Midwifery and Health Visiting.

A spokesman for the UKCC warned: "There are several potential dangers. One is that someone tries to get into nursing who isn't qualified in order to harm patients or to have access to drugs. Another is that the person is well-meaning but because they are untrained they will not know what to do in a crisis."