Pressure is mounting on ministers to consider statutory regulation of healthcare assistants after the chair of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry revealed it was top of his list of concerns.
Speaking at the inquiry’s closing session this week, Robert Francis QC set out 20 issues he would be considering when producing his recommendations, due to be published next year.
The regulation and training of HCAs was first on the list. Also of concern are the training and standards of registered nurses, the nature and scope of a duty of candour, protection for whistleblowers and the impact of skill mix and staffing levels on safety and quality of care.
The government announced plans for a voluntary register for HCAs last month and has said it does not favour compulsory registration on cost grounds.
However, health minister Earl Howe has previously committed to “consider carefully” Mr Francis’ recommendations and to bring forward another health bill to implement them if necessary.
Counsel to the inquiry Tom Kark QC, who is Mr Francis’ key adviser, said the lack of HCA regulation and registration appeared to be a “surprising and potentially dangerous” gap in the healthcare system.
He accused the government of failing to deal with the issue due to the “size of the problem”.