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Willis: Give patients access to HCA training records

Patients and relatives should be allowed to check the training records of healthcare assistants in a bid to make employers take more responsibility, an influential member of the House of Lords has said.

Lord Willis of Knaresborough chaired a review of nurse education commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing last year. In a keynote address at the RCN congress this morning he called on the health secretary to act now to make it compulsory for all healthcare providers to keep a register of the training their HCAs had received.

Lord Willis said this could act as a starting point for full registration of HCAs, which would be difficult if not impossible to do without agreed training standards anyway.

 “I understand that reluctance [to register HCAs] at a time of restricted budgets. I call on the secretary of state today to make it a mandatory requirement to register the training staff have received and to make it available for other bodies to see including the Care Quality Commission and patients and relatives,” he said.

Lord Willis told Nursing Times this would help make employers act responsibly.

“If in fact [the employer] is using staff on the frontline who have no training or inappropriate training that would be there… and that would be very powerful.”

Lord Willis also criticised the government’s plan to make aspiring nurses work as HCAs for a year to gain entry onto a funded nursing course, pointing out neither his own review nor the Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry report had recommended it.

He said: “The idea that students choose to enter this profession to become complacent in the ‘normalisation of cruelty’ is as offensive as it is wrong.

“For most students the experience of working in a caring capacity is a fundamental requirement and experience as a HCA may be valuable. But only where it’s accompanied by high quality training and supervision and so far not a word has accompanied the [government’s] proposals.”

The Liberal Democrat peer also criticised the use of psychometric tests to recruit new nurses citing the lack of evidence such testing could identify whether an individual would make a caring nurse. Following the publication of the Francis report in to Mid Staffordshire in February Health Education England announced plans to test all potential nursing students for their values using an “aptitude test”. It is understood this is likely to include some form of psychometric testing.

Asked whether he agreed with Robert Francis QC’s recommendations on education of nurses Lord Willis said there was “nothing fundamentally wrong” with them but “wished” Mr Francis had spent more time looking at the practical elements of nurse education, such as mentoring.

“That’s the bit that really needs to be pulled up by its boot straps,” he said. “To have people at the end of a twelve hour shift sitting in a corner to observe a student or sign off their competencies can’t be right.”

He called for mentoring to be seen as a “major career development, not just an add-on” and for more recognition that not all nurses were suitable to be mentors.

He also criticised the sheer number of recommendations in the Francis report.

“The idea we are going to implement 290 recommendations is farcical,” he said.

Readers' comments (11)

  • i can assure you that at the end of a 12 hr shift I do not sit in the corner observing students.
    where do these people get their ideas from?

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  • michael stone

    'In a keynote address at the RCN congress this morning he called on the health secretary to act now to make it compulsory for all healthcare providers to keep a register of the training their HCAs had received.

    Lord Willis said this could act as a starting point for full registration of HCAs, which would be difficult if not impossible to do without agreed training standards anyway.

    “I understand that reluctance [to register HCAs] at a time of restricted budgets. I call on the secretary of state today to make it a mandatory requirement to register the training staff have received and to make it available for other bodies to see including the Care Quality Commission and patients and relatives,” he said.'

    I agree 100% with this - makes good sense, as one possible approach to improving the training of HCAs and then perhaps (if it still makes sense) moving on to a HCA registration scheme.

    Off topic, Hunt unsettled me this morning, by saying things on Radio 4 that actually made sense to me.

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  • DH Agent - as if ! | 25-Apr-2013 9:15 am

    he wasn't discussing homeopathy then?

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  • Well done Lord Willis for focusing the attention on employers responsibility for their workforce and role of outside bodies to seek evidence of they discharging their responsibility. this will sigualarly drive up standards and accountability of providers.

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  • michael stone

    No, actually Hunt (and he was blaming Labour for this, because the contract changes were under Labour), was in essence saying that by allowing GPs to opt-out of OOH cover, the cover being provided now is much more fragmented, and tends to be worse, than when GP Practices tended to cover their own patients directly OOH.

    I was quite shocked - it unsettles me, when Tory ministers, especially ones who apparently like homeopathy, say things I agree with !

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  • any thing else? pathetic

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  • DH Agent - as if ! | 25-Apr-2013 3:44 pm

    that is the art of rhetoric which is presumably how politicians get their jobs. anybody who has acquired this skill can talk the hind leg off a donkey but will he now actually act on what he says?it seems he is beginning to wake up to the realities of a very grave situation which seems to be rapidly deteriorating as far as getting patients the care they need goes.

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  • michael stone

    Anonymous | 25-Apr-2013 10:29 pm

    Let's be clear - Hunt didn't say that GPs must go back to actually making OOH calls themselves (your own GP) ! But just for once, he said something clearly true.

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  • DH Agent - as if ! | 26-Apr-2013 10:40 am

    well it would be good to restore some continuity to patient care. at the moment it is becoming more and more process and number orientated. this will worsen in hospital care with the stemming of immigration of foreign nurses and an increase in short term residency permits and contracts.

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  • michael stone

    'at the moment it is becoming more and more process and number orientated'

    I have a serious aversion to 'process-based behaviour', for my pet area of end-of-life at home (very simple point - the patient and live-with relatives will definitely not understand 'the process' will they !).

    I also dislike 'we've crunched the numbers, the data must therefore be reliable (there were presumably numbers about complaints/failures in nursing and care homes before that infamous Panorama expose of WV - after the programme, the reports of bad behaviour to the CQC went up by a huge factor {10 springs to mind, but I'm not sure}).

    And I'm far from convinced, that the new NHS structure is going to improve continuity of patient care ?

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  • DH Agent - as if ! | 26-Apr-2013 3:49 pm

    well it looks as though process oriented care is a step in the direction towards remote care as described by a commentator following the Morecombe Bay article - very economical when the IT is working properly and not losing and confusing patient data. Chatting with your cheery remote doctor and nurse will be just like American breakfast television over cardboard cornflakes, prunes and orange juice!

    You don't like process orientated care and I am sure not many hc professionals like being forced to deliver it. It is even more poignant and repugnant when you find yourself on the receiving end of it as I did last weekend. The procedure carried out by the doctor was obviously to him just a process which he executed to perfection but any sort of discussion and reassurance surrounding it was virtually absent leaving behind a very frightened and possibly unnecessarily worried patient!

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