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Healthcare assistant training urged

Published on 10 July 2013 10:30 AM

Healthcare assistants (HCA) should get standard training, according to a new independent review into the profession.


There is no minimum standard of training, says the review, before healthcare assistants can handle patients without supervision - even when doing jobs that should be done by doctors or nurses.

The Cavendish Review recommends that all HCAs and social care support staff should get the same minimum fortnight's basic training.

It urges that they should earn a Certificate of Fundamental Care before they can work unsupervised in English hospitals, care homes and in the homes of people needing support.

The review says there are over 1.3 million frontline staff who are not registered nurses but who provide most hands-on care in these three areas.

They are performing duties such as putting fluid directly into patients' veins by inserting intravenous drips or taking blood, but they get no 'consistent' tutelage, the report said.

HCAs and support staff also provide some of the most basic levels of care in the health service, including washing, dressing and feeding patients.

The review started after the issuing of the public inquiry that found that the most basic elements of care were neglected at Stafford Hospital.

Report found a confusion surrounding job roles

A lack of compulsory or consistent training and an abundance of job titles confuses patients, who frequently presume that everyone is a nurse, said the review.

This also complicates life for some nurses, it continued, because they aren't always certain which tasks they can safely farm out.

It added that some HCAs are today doing tasks that used to be the preserve of nurses, even doctors.

The review went on: 'The review met a group of healthcare assistants from a busy A&E who are inserting IV drips, taking blood and plastering - yet they are paid at three levels below a newly qualified nurse.'

Registration system urged by chairman of Mid-Staffs inquiry

Robert Francis QC, chairman of the public inquiry into the faults at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, urged a registration system for healthcare support workers.

But health secretary Jeremy Hunt refused to start full-scale regulation for HCAs because it could result in a 'bureaucratic quagmire'.

Mr Hunt instead enlisted the latest review, headed by the associate editor of the Sunday Times, Camilla Cavendish.

When HCAs earn the Certificate of Fundamental Care they should be allowed to use the title 'Nursing Assistant', the new review says.

It recommends that they should be given the chance to advance into nursing through the creation of a 'Higher Certificate of Fundamental Care'.

Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General at Age UK, commented: 'Excellent, compassionate, dignified care which is based around what an older person needs both physically and emotionally must be the bedrock on which our social care and  health system rests. Care that is less than that we would want for a loved one is not good enough and the way we train and support all staff working in health and care must reflect that.

'It is a basic expectation that people working with patients have the competence to do so safely and effectively. Introducing minimum standards for healthcare assistants could help to meet this expectation, though many will be shocked this is needed in the first place.

'There are wider issues too about the skills in place within health and care services, in particular those vital to the care of older people as the majority users.'

Copyright Press Association 2013

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Last updated: Dec 05 2018

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