HCAs could be policed with 'blacklist'
The government is considering setting up a “black list” of care home workers to improve public protection in a scheme that Nursing Times understands could be extended to healthcare assistants.
Under the proposal, recommended by the Health and Care Professions Council, a “negative register” would be set up listing staff that had been found unfit to practise as an adult social care worker.
Employers would be able to check the register before deciding whether to employ someone. The scheme is similar to one introduced for teachers in April 2012 and is also used in parts of Australia.
At the request of the Department of Health, the council – which regulates professions including radiographers and occupational therapists as well as social workers – is investigating how much the model would cost in adult social care.
Nursing Times understands the idea is also attracting a lot of interest from organisations involved in discussions on future approaches to regulating healthcare support workers.
An HCPC spokeswoman told Nursing Times the council thought the negative register model had the potential to be extended to NHS staff.
She said: “We have only looked initially at adult social care. However, we think this model might potentially be scaleable to other parts of the health and social care workforce.”
As well as healthcare support workers, it has been suggested it could be introduced for NHS managers.
However, it is not known whether this would affect only very senior staff, such as chief executives, or also include lower layers of management, who may already covered by registration with another regulator.
Potential models of regulation for HCAs are attracting fresh attention ahead of the imminent publication of Robert Francis QC’s public inquiry report into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust. The report is widely expected recommend changes to how HCAs are trained and regulated.
The government’s current stated position is that it favours the introduction of voluntary regulation backed by a minimum set of standards. But a compulsory system has long been favoured by groups such as Unison and the Royal College of Nursing.
RCN head of policy Howard Catton said the negative register idea represented a “small step forward” in attempts to introduce regulation for HCAs.
But he said the college would need to hear more details about how individuals would be added to the register. “We would need to be sure it isn’t some form of blacklist – face doesn’t fit – subjective judgement,” he said.
But Unison head of nursing Gail Adams argued that a negative register would not prevent harm occurring in the first place.
“Supposing the harm is catastrophic like that caused by support workers that worked at Winterbourne View? You need the right person with right skills in the first place,” she said.
Ms Adams also warned that such a system could fall foul of human rights legislation that protected a right to a fair trial.
The RCN and other unions have been working with the body Skills for Health on developing training standards and a code of conduct for care workers in health and social care.
It was asked to carry out the work by the government and is expected to define minimum training or induction standards for a range of “core” health and social care support tasks.
However, Mr Catton told Nursing Times unions have asked for an addendum to be included in the final document making clear they do not see the standards and code of conduct as a solution on their own and they have serious concerns about a voluntary approach.