Healthcare assistants based at GP surgeries in Harrow, North London, have undergone extra training to boost their skills and increase the amount of support they can give to practice nurses.
The training initiative run by Harrow Clinical Commission Group has seen 20 HCAs complete a six-month course, which could also help them embark on nurse training.
“We were keen to both raise standards by providing a uniform benchmark and help free up nurses’ time”
The scheme was conceived by a local education forum that identified variation in the level of training among HCAs at the borough’s 34 practices.
The training was designed to equip participants with new skills, including overseeing health checks, taking blood, administrating flu jabs and pneumococcal vaccinations, blood glucose testing, spirometry and handling basic lab tests.
“We were keen to both raise standards by providing a uniform benchmark and help free up nurses’ time to focus more on medicine management and treatment of long-term conditions,” said advanced nurse practitioner Christine Bushell, a nursing representative on the education forum.
“We’re very proud of our HCAs,” she said. “The majority were enthusiastic and keen to learn new skills and we will be offering further modules.”
North London HCAs offered extra primary care training
The training was delivered by an external provider, but Ms Bushell said it had been shaped by local needs including a focus on diabetic care due to the high prevalence of the condition in Harrow.
It was designed to cover all aspects of the care certificate introduced for HCAs in April 2015 and support staff can also put points earned towards applying to do formal nursing training.
“The idea is to progressively develop our HCAs’ skills which, in turn, will give our nurses and GPs more capacity,” said Dr Imtiaz Gulamali, joint chair of Harrow Education Forum.
“We have a limited budget, so it’s a case of working smarter with what we have while also giving staff the chance to move up the career ladder,” he said.
“It’s a case of working smarter with what we have while also giving staff the chance to move up the career ladder”
Harrow CCG has also won recognition for work around palliative care, after a round-the-clock support service for people nearing the end of life was shortlisted this year for a national award.
The CCG and partner organisation St Luke’s Hospice are in the running for Palliative Care Team of the Year at the British Medical Journal awards.
The service, launched last year, provides 24/7 advice and support to heathcare professionals, patients and carers and allows same day urgent care packages to be put in place so patients can stay at home. It also has a small rapid response team to deliver direct care in a crisis.
Since launching, the service has helped tackle issues like poor communication between services and helped reduce emergency hospital admissions.