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National Health Security scheme

AusCheck conducts National Health Security (NHS) checks for the Department of Health. These checks are part of the Security Sensitive Biological Agents (SSBA) Regulatory Scheme, which aims to limit opportunities for acts of bioterrorism or biocrime.

If you had a background check for an NHS authorisation, you have an obligation to self-report convictions for any security-relevant offences to your entity within two business days of being convicted.

Do I need an NHS check?

The SSBA standards require an individual to undergo an NHS check if the person:

  • handles Tier 1 SSBAs
  • has access to facilities where Tier 1 SSBAs are handled; or
  • has access to sensitive information related to Tier 1 SSBAs.

Individuals who hold a current national security clearance of Negative Vetting Level 1, Negative Vetting Level 2 or Positive Vetting are not required to undergo an NHS check.

For more information on who requires an NHS check, visit the Department of Health website.

Background checking

The SSBA Standards require AusCheck to background check individuals handling and accessing facilities or information relating to Tier 1 SSBAs. This is to identify individuals who are not eligible to access these secure areas.

AusCheck does this by:

  • coordinating criminal and security checks on applicants
  • applying the statutory requirements
  • notifying the applicant and their entity of the outcome of the background check.

AusCheck obtains information from its checking partners To fulfil its background checking requirements. The NHS background check comprises:

  • a security assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation
  • a criminal history check by the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission
  • an immigration check (if required) by the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, to confirm an applicant's right to work in Australia.

Decision making process and considerations

For AusCheck to begin a background check, you will have to provide your issuing body with all the information required by section 5 of the AusCheck Regulations 2017. Once this information is received, AusCheck will contact its checking partners. AusCheck cannot complete a background check until it has received all relevant information from its checking partners.

Once AusCheck has received all relevant information from its checking partners, an assessment of the applicant's criminal history information can be conducted to determine whether that individual has met the eligibility criteria.

AusCheck does not set the eligibility criteria for the NHS scheme. Eligibility criteria are set out in the Security Sensitive Biological Agent Standards administered by the Department of Health. An explanation of the application of this criteria can be found in the below table:

Finding

Definition

Eligible

The criminal history has no health-security-relevant offence or has less than three separate health security-relevant offences in the previous 10 years from the date of AusCheck providing the results of the NHS check to the entity and has no sentence of imprisonment.

Qualified

The criminal history has a health-security-relevant offence on three or more separate occasions in the previous 10 years from the date of AusCheck providing the results of the NHS check to the entity, but has not received a sentence of imprisonment for these offences.

Adverse

The criminal history has a health-security-relevant offence, which has a sentence (including a suspended sentence) of imprisonment.

Some of the factors and considerations in the background checking process are detailed below:

Convictions

Where someone is found guilty of an offence, the court can decide not to record a conviction for the offence.

In accordance with the Crimes Act 1914, all findings of guilt are viewed as convictions, whether or not a conviction is recorded by the court.

Spent convictions

In certain circumstances, a conviction can be considered spent if the convicted person does not re-offend for a particular period. Spent convictions are excluded for the purposes of AusCheck's background checking.

However, for the purposes of AusCheck's background checking, there are certain types of offences that AusCheck is able to take into account even though they may normally be spent. These offences are listed in the Crimes Regulations 1990.

Our privacy policy has more information on how AusCheck deals with spent convictions.

Multiple charges

A single penalty on a criminal history certificate can relate to more than one criminal act. This is indicated by the number of charges, which is usually shown in brackets on a criminal history certificate.

AusCheck is required to treat each charge as a separate conviction for the purposes of determining whether someone has a qualified or adverse criminal history.

Imprisonment

If someone is found guilty of an offence, the court has the option of suspending the prison sentence.

However, for the purposes of AusCheck's background checking, all sentences of imprisonment are considered relevant, even if they are suspended.

Imprisonment includes a range of different forms of imprisonment, including periodic detention, home-based detention, and detention until the rising of the court. It does not include obligations to perform community service.

Processing times and outcome notification

The background checking and decision making process is usually completed within six weeks, but can be longer in some cases. Delays to processing times can be caused by inaccurate or incomplete information provided at the time of application. To check the status of your application, contact the entity that you lodged your application through.

Once the background check and the decision making process are complete, AusCheck provides advice to both the applicant and the NHS entity which applied for the authorisation.

If AusCheck becomes aware that advice was inaccurate or incomplete, they will provide new and updated advice.

Appeals process

You can seek review of an AusCheck decision by applying to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT).
Your application will need to include:

  • your name, address and telephone number
  • the name of the department that made the decision - in this case, it is the Attorney-General's Department, which AusCheck is a part of
  • the date of the decision
  • a copy of the letter that AusCheck sent to you
  • brief reasons you think the decision is wrong.

The AAT usually charges an application fee. For more information, visit the Administrative Appeals Tribunal website.

Right to access documents held by AusCheck

To apply for access to information held by AusCheck, contact the Attorney-General's Department Freedom of Information Officer at:

FOI Contact Officer
Attorney-General's Department
3-5 National Circuit
BARTON ACT 2600

Email: FOI@ag.gov.au

For more information visit the freedom of information page.

Obligation to self-report

If you had a background check for an NHS authorisation, you have an obligation to self-report convictions for all health-security-relevant offences to your entity. This information must be provided to your entity within two business days of the conviction. The entity is required to inform AusCheck of the information reported within two business days of being informed. Failure to provide this information is a breach of the SSBA Standards and could result in the suspension of an individual's authorisation.