The Willis Commission on Nursing Education is likely to add its voice to calls for the mandatory regulation of healthcare assistants, after its chair described the current situation as “unacceptable”.
Speaking last Friday at a nursing forum in London, Lord Willis of Knaresborough gave further indications of what the commission would recommend in its final report, which is due to be published in November.
The independent commission was set up in April by the Royal College of Nursing to look at the future of nurse education.
Lord Willis said: “Over the last 10 years we have seen a shift in balance between registered nurses and healthcare assistants, many of whom are not properly trained.
“Vulnerable patients are being left in the hands of people who are not trained and not regulated,” the former Liberal Democrat MP told the event organised by Camden and Islington Foundation Trust. There “has to be a move” in the “direction” of mandatory regulation, he said.
Lord Willis also reiterated interim findings from the commission – revealed last month – that there was no evidence the moves to degree-only entry affected nurses’ ability or desire to care with compassion.
He said the skills nurses required now were “vastly different” than 10 years ago and the profession needed to be able to “meet that challenge”.
The minimum academic level for pre-registration education in England will be a degree from September 2013 – bringing it in line with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Lord Willis also said he was “incredulous” there was funding available to help struggling medics but not nurses, and suggested the commission would seek to identify more support for student nurses, educators and their employers.
Additionally, he said the commission had found evidence of some education that was “looking to the past rather than the future”, adding: “The nurses of tomorrow will work in multi-professional teams, it’s really important we don’t create more silos in the system.
“There is a lack of recognition that if you want quality staff you have to invest in them each and every year,” he said.