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HCAs being used as 'nurses on the cheap' and 'without training', claims union

  • 20 Comments

Almost 40% of healthcare assistants say they have not received the training necessary to provide the care they are expected to deliver, according to a new report published today.

In addition, around a quarter of HCAs said they were “often” or “sometimes” asked to do things beyond their competence – including giving patients medication – stated the report from the union Unison.

“[HCAs] are essentially doing jobs previously done by nurses yet this is neither reflected in their pay nor in their career opportunities”

Sara Gorton

Meanwhile, in the last year, 44% of HCAs have “fairly” or “very seriously” considered leaving their job, mostly due to either work pressure or feeling undervalued by their employer.

The union, which surveyed nearly 2,300 HCAs across the UK working in primary and secondary care, said the report showed HCAs working in the NHS were often filling in for nurses due to staffing shortages.

It said those working in the assistant role were being used as “nursing on the cheap” and were “undervalued, increasingly overworked and not getting the support they need at work”.

The union called for national standards and role responsibilities for HCAs to be introduced by the government, as well as a review of their pay and options for career progression.

It criticised the government for focusing on creating the new nursing associate role – designed to sit between HCAs and registered nurses – instead of investing in the entire HCA workforce.

Of the 39% of survey respondents who said they had not received training to do their current job, the most common tasks they wanted extra training in were cannulation, phlebotomy, catheterisation, dementia care, venepuncture, carrying out ECGs and clinical observations.

“Healthcare assistants are undervalued, increasingly overworked and not getting the support they need at work”

Sara Gorton

Unison said, in particular, it had a “real concern” that training was not being provided for clinical observations, when the survey had also revealed such tasks were the most common daily task for HCAs.

It was also worrying that only 58% of respondents to the survey said they were confident that a concern they raised about patient care would be listened to and acted upon, said the union.

“It seems likely that, for many, this is a damaging consequence of the general theme running through the survey of feeling undervalued and disrespected,” said the report, called Care on the Cheap: A Unison survey of clinical support workers.

The vast majority of respondents – 85% – also said they believed support workers should be regulated by an external regulatory body, similar to nurses and doctors.

Unison

Healthcare assistants used as ‘nurses on the cheap’

Source: HSJ

Sara Gorton

Sara Gorton, Unison’s deputy head of health, said: “Healthcare assistants are undervalued, increasingly overworked and not getting the support they need at work.

“Their responsibilities have increased massively – from feeding patients to now carrying out skilled medical procedures,” she said. “They are essentially doing jobs previously done by nurses yet this is neither reflected in their pay nor in their career opportunities, so they’re struggling to make ends meet.

“Many could earn more stacking supermarket shelves than they can looking after patients. It’s nursing on the cheap and patients ultimately suffer as a result,” she added.

  • 20 Comments

Readers' comments (20)

  • michael stone

    'Unison said, in particular, it had a “real concern” that training was not being provided for clinical observations, when the survey had also revealed such tasks were the most common daily task for HCAs.'

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  • Clinical observations for HCAs to take clinical decisions?
    Well 3 years of training in Uni might be necessary plus 1 or 2 years of training in wards to protect patient safety then they can carry on.

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  • Rita, do HCA'S not do the clinical observations in your department. I know they do in most hospitals in Northern Ireland.

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  • Well the way I see things and I've been right for the past 10+ years cheap labour will backfire and patients will die. The problem with the NHS management they try covering things up then one day all will be revealed . Many aspects of care are performed by untrained HCA's and Nurses. It's about time the Government and NHS rich managers came clean and informed the public of what the future plans are because it's getting dangerous.

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  • Nothing new here...

    I started out in 1984 as a temporary nursing assistant (to use the terminology of the time), filling a gap which was a substantive staff nurse post. Did I get any training or guidance in what I was supposed to do? No training and minimal guidance...

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  • Pussy

    From the beginning of time and I don't foresee any immediate change. Care on the cheap as always.

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  • I work as an HCA in a busy A and E department. I have been doing the job for almost 15 years. During this time i have undertaken an NVQ 3 and a foundation degree. I have been trained in catheterising, cannulation and venipuncture...for this i received study days, had to produce a unit of work, and was signed off on the department. Whilst i love my job, i feel underpaid and undervalued. I often support newly qualified nurses...yet i can't progress to complete my degree as they've taken the bursary away, and keep changing the goalposts. It seems no one knows what the hell is going on when it comes to the future of nursing.

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  • michael stone

    A point: the person recording clinical observations, need not be the person making clinical decisions based on the observations, But the observation needs to be accurate - so if an HCA is measuring blood-pressure, the HCA does need to know how to get an accurate reading.

    That was my original point - only an idiot, would task people who had not been trained in how to do it properly, with making a clinical observation.

    I'm sure that there are plenty of HCAs who are perfectly competent at clinical observation, by the way.

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  • The policy in Northern Ireland for observations states continuous observations should be carried out by registered mental health nurses

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  • Yes hca s are doing a lot of nurses jobs at no extra pay,nurses are also doing a lot of drs work at no extra pay so what next,

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