Hopes that healthcare assistants could be placed on a statutory register to improve patient safety have been dashed by the Health and Social Care Bill, Nursing Times has been told.
The bill has confirmed that the government wants HCAs to be regulated through voluntary registers, despite calls for a formal system similar to the Nursing and Midwifery Council’s register of qualified nurses.
The legislation allows the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence, which oversees regulatory bodies such as the NMC and the Health Professions Council, to accredit voluntary registers that would be held by the regulators.
An impact assessment accompanying the bill says anyone on a voluntary register “will meet specified standards of training and competence”.
CHRE chief executive Harry Cayton said the bill signalled the end of attempts to create a statutory register for HCAs. He said: “It’s not going to happen because it’s expensive and probably not necessary in terms of protection of the public.”
But critics have said that a voluntary register could allow professionals who pose a real danger to patients to drop below the radar.
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said the bill was a “missed opportunity”. She said: “The government’s intention is that there is no more statutory regulation. We continue to feel that HCAs do need regulation due to public protection issues.”
An NMC spokeswoman said: “We will continue to work with partner organisations to scope the various options that may be available to us around this important issue.
“In the meantime, a key priority for us is to revise our guidance on delegation of tasks by registered nurses or midwives.”
Meanwhile, a CHRE progress report, published last week on the NMC’s performance in its fitness to practise function, has found “significant improvements”, following previous heavy criticism of its poor handling and slowness in dealing with cases.
However, the CHRE is “still concerned about the seriousness of the amount and nature of the improvements that the NMC has to make”, which include “cultural changes” and better administration of hearings.
The NMC spokeswoman said: “We are confident that we will continue to make excellent progress in the coming year.”