A new national certificate for care workers will be introduced in an attempt to drive up standards, health minister Earl Howe has announced.
The decision follows a recommendation by Camilla Cavendish in a review set up in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust scandal.
She found there was no minimum standard of training for healthcare assistants before they could work unsupervised and recommended at least two weeks of initial training.
Lord Howe said that government would make a full response to her July report at a later point but they had already asked Health Education England to lead work “to develop a certificate of fundamental care”.
He said: “We want to call this a Care Certificate. Our goal in introducing the Care Certificate is to ensure that healthcare assistants and social care support workers receive high quality induction in the fundamentals of caring.
“This should ensure they understand the skills requirement and demonstrate the behaviour needed to deliver compassionate care.”
He added: “The Care Certificate will provide clear evidence to employers, patients and service users that the person in front of them has been trained to a specific set of standards and has the skills, knowledge and behaviours to ensure that they provide high quality care and support.
“We will work with the Care Quality Commission to incorporate the requirement for staff to hold a Care Certificate into their guidance.”
He said the government was still open minded about taking the further step of regulating care workers but did not think it was “appropriate” at the moment.
During report stage debate on the Care Bill, peers accepted an amendment moved by Lord Howe that would allow the government to appoint someone to “set the standards which persons undergoing the training in question must attain”.
Shadow health minister Lord Hunt of Kings Heath “very much welcomed” the development of a certificate of fundamental care but called for the government to go further.
He told peers: “I have long thought that the regulation of support workers was necessary, desirable and inevitable because they play such an important role in the caring of so many people.”
Robert Francis QC, chairman of the public inquiry into the failings at Mid Stafford, recommended a registration system for healthcare support workers, but Lord Howe said there were several problems with the approach.
He said: “We need to bear in mind that statutory regulation is not just about training - it is a much broader process.
“Currently we don’t view that as appropriate or proportionate for healthcare assistants and social care workers.
“Let us remember that statutory regulation involves setting standards of conduct, protecting commonly recognised professional titles, establishing a list of registered practitioners - quite an onerous process - providing a way in which complaints can be dealt with fairly and appropriately, allowing a regulator to strike off an individual from the register. It is a complex business - we should make no mistake about that.”
Liberal Democrat Lord Willis of Knaresborough described the announcement of the Care Certificate as a “major breakthrough in terms of the training of healthcare support workers”.
He said: “There is no doubt the overwhelming case to be able to appropriately train the 1.3 million healthcare support workers who do such fantastic jobs in care homes, in domiciliary settings as well as in terms of our hospitals is something which has been a national scandal so far.
“These are a hugely important part of the workforce and to actually have them recognised is important.”
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