Can we ask to see DBS certificates from third-party staff for example NHS professionals?

The short answer is 'no', since the DBS certificate contains sensitive personal data which the school has no legal basis to see.

Keeping Children Safe in Education does not give any specific guidance on how ‘visiting professionals’ are managed or checked. It does provide guidance on (i) agency and third-party staff* (ii) contactors and (iii) visitors. (* third-party staff in this context refers to 'individuals who will be working at the school [undertaking duties] that the school or college would otherwise perform', i.e. not visiting professionals)

There is no statutory requirement to record the details of visiting professionals who visit the school and are not part of the school staff. It is up to the school how it records such individuals. There is no requirement to include them on the Single Central Record.

Although, visiting professionals are not regarded as third-party staff (see definition above) their organisation should provide written confirmation that all relevant checks have been completed on the professional visiting the school. The headteacher must make a judgement whether the person should be escorted whilst on the premises or be allowed to be unsupervised i.e. whether they are in ‘regulated activity’ or not. The school must be satisfied that the individual arriving at the school is the same person that the organisation checked.

There is no requirement to request the visiting professional’s DBS number and date of certificate issue because unless the DBS certificate is available to check these against then it’s meaningless to have them. An individual could simply provide a false DBS number and date of issue and a school would never know. However, the DBS certificate does contain sensitive personal data so the school has no right to see this if they themselves have no right to undertake a DBS check on that individual. The DBS are unable to use the certificate number to 'back-check' the person.

One particular issue that arises is that the organisation employing the professional may have lower thresholds than the school when considering cautions, convictions or police intelligence that may be shown on the DBS certificate.

Relying on the professional's employer to undertake the check does not allow the headteacher to ‘satisfy themselves’ that the person is suitable to be in the school unsupervised. It is consequently difficult for the school to know what level of supervision to put in place if they don’t know enough about the visiting professional to manage any risk. The assumption has to be that the person is suitable, unless otherwise informed.