Healthcare assistants will not face statutory regulation but they will be subject to national minimum training and a code of conduct, under government proposals responding to the Francis report.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt today made a statement in the Commons outlining the government’s response to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry report.
As reported by Nursing Times earlier this morning and trailed by the national press, students seeking funding for nursing degrees will first have to serve a year as a healthcare assistant.
“This will ensure that people who become nurses have the right and understand their roles,” he said.
He added: “Healthcare support workers and adult social care workers will now have a Code of Conduct and minimum training standards, both of which are being published today.”
A new chief inspector of hospitals will ensure “unsuitable” HCAs are barred from working in hospitals under the Home Office’s barring regime, Mr Hunt told the Commons.
In addition, he said the chief inspector had been instructed to ensure that hospitals were “properly recruiting, training and supporting healthcare assistants”, drawing on forthcoming recommendations from the new review into HCA training by Camilla Cavendish.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council and other professional regulators will also be required “to tighten their procedures for breaches of professional standards”.
Hospitals and other healthcare providers will be given action plans, under the Compassion in Practice nursing strategy, to give nurse ward managers the time to meet their supervisory and leadership role.
A statutory duty of candour, including a criminal sanction, will be applied to healthcare organisations requiring them to be open with patients and relatives if they believe treatment or care has caused death or serious injury – as revealed on Friday by Nursing Times.
Mr Hunt said: “We will introduce…a new statutory duty of candour for providers, to ensure that honesty and transparency are the norm in every organisation.”
He said the government had not ruled out extending a legal duty of candour to NHS workers below board level and would consider this after the review by patient safety expert Don Berwick which is due to report before the summer.
Mr Hunt told Nursing Times today a statutory duty of candour with criminal sanctions could “create a culture of fear” and may have unintended consequences.
It also emerged today that nurses will face the prospect of an annual revalidation scheme, similar to that imposed on doctors, to ensure their skills are up to date and they are fit to practise.
The Department of Health has said revalidation for nurses will only be introduced once the Nursing and Midwifery Council “turns around its current poor performance.”
Mr Hunt also restated the government’s existing policy that hourly ward rounds should be introduced across the acute sector.
All civil servants working for the Department of Health will have “sustained and meaningful experience of the frontline” within four years to “reconnect” them NHS staff and patients.
However, the government has rejected the suggestion for a specialist older person’s nurse and instead said it will strengthen the focus on older people throughout nursing care.
In his statement to the Commons, Mr Hunt described the Francis report should “mark a turning point in the history of the NHS”.
He said the government “accepts the essence” of the recommendations made by Francis report and would issue a full response later in the year.
But he said, “given the urgency of the need for change”, he was announcing today “key elements” of the government’s response to be implemented as quickly as possible.