The Nursing and Midwifery Council chief executive and registrar has told Nursing Times he is “single minded” about ensuring healthcare assistants are regulated nationally.
Professor Dickon Weir-Hughes strongly hinted he wanted the NMC to take on the task of regulating healthcare support workers as he announced the NMC had commissioned research into the issue.
He told Nursing Times: “People haven’t quite known whose responsibility it is to pick this up. From the NHS point of view, regulation can sometimes appear to be a barrier to innovation in terms of new roles, rather than something that’s helpful.
“Because we [nurses] are delegating tasks to HCAs it’s probably down to us to do something. I’m pretty single minded about it.”
But he said he did not want to pre-empt the research and said any changes would require “stakeholder buy in”.
The study will be carried out by Professor Peter Griffiths and Dr Sarah Robinson of the National Nursing Research Unit at King’s College London Florence Nightingale School of Nursing.
They will consider the risks posed by unregulated HCAs and the implications for the nurses and midwives who delegate to them.
The first phase of the study is expected to end in March. Professor Weir-Hughes said he hoped to have a good idea of the NMC’s final position by the end of the year.
He said: “The public deserve better protection in relation to healthcare support workers.
“Very often when patients or their loved ones make complaints about the NHS they think they’re complaining about nurses but they’re actually talking about healthcare assistants who are undertaking nursing duties.”
Employer-led regulation has been piloted in Scotland but Professor Weir-Hughes said a national system is needed to ensure standards are transferable.
The views of nurses and midwives will play a central part in informing the work.
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “I’m grateful that the NMC is taking a more active interest than they have in the past but fundamentally we have to make sure healthcare support workers can take part in the decision.
“What’s happened so far is that no HCAs have been included in the work that has been done by some national organisations.”
Healthcare support workers do not just work with nurses but in a variety of settings, she said.
Unison is developing a set of core competencies it hopes will form the beginnings of a regulatory framework.
The union will use this work to decide whether it still wants the Healthcare Professionals Council to regulate HCAs – a position the union has held since 2005.