'HCA regulation would be game changer for care'
Robert Francis QC’s recommendation to regulate and train healthcare assistants has been met with approval from nurses. In our survey of nearly 3,000 readers post-Francis, 73% told us that they felt regulation would “be of great benefit to nurses”.
The prime minister is not so convinced. He responded almost instantly to the recommendation the day the Francis report was published, describing regulation as potentially “bureaucratic”.
And although Mr Cameron was warmer about the idea of mandatory training, some fear the establishment of the latest HCA inquiry is just an attempt to “kick the issue into the long grass”.
There has also been concern about the selection of Camilla Cavendish, associate editor at The Times, to lead the inquiry.
Ms Cavendish has quite a pedigree - having written about health for many years and achieved success as an award-winning campaigning journalist. But what she believes recommends her most highly is her experience as a patient, realising the people looking after her weren’t nurses but untrained HCAs.
Some people believe to really understand the job, you have to have done the job and know what it takes to feed a patient who is confused or change a bedpan
This concerns some people who believe to really understand the job, you have to have done the job and know what it takes to feed a patient who is confused, change a bedpan or try to lift a patient out of bed day in day out.
Ms Cavendish has revealed her motivation is to fix a system that has failed, and intends to meet with focus groups of HCAs, and talk to patients, nurses, doctors and unions to research the problems.
And she has promised to come back with her findings within a short timeframe - there is talk of the report being completed by early summer. Her view is that good practice doesn’t get spread around and she intends to find the key things the system could do to improve standards in the hands-on care provided by HCAs.
All of that sounds positive. But this work must not become a duplication of earlier reviews - or excuse a failure to acknowledge that what will have the biggest impact is regulation and mandatory training. It must not distract from the real game changer.
● Our interview with Helene Donnelly (page 8), the nurse who blew the whistle at Mid Staffs, and our story on Terry Bryan, the nurse whistleblower at Winterbourne View (page 6) shows how those who stand up for good care are being ostracised. This has inspired us to set up our new campaign “Speak out Safely” to boost protection for whistleblowers. It will be launching next week.
Jenni Middleton, editor
firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter @nursingtimesed