Patients and relatives should be allowed to check the training records of healthcare assistants in a bid to make employers take more responsibility, an influential member of the House of Lords has said.
Lord Willis of Knaresborough chaired a review of nurse education commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing last year. In a keynote address at the RCN congress this morning he called on the health secretary to act now to make it compulsory for all healthcare providers to keep a register of the training their HCAs had received.
Lord Willis said this could act as a starting point for full registration of HCAs, which would be difficult if not impossible to do without agreed training standards anyway.
“I understand that reluctance [to register HCAs] at a time of restricted budgets. I call on the secretary of state today to make it a mandatory requirement to register the training staff have received and to make it available for other bodies to see including the Care Quality Commission and patients and relatives,” he said.
Lord Willis told Nursing Times this would help make employers act responsibly.
“If in fact [the employer] is using staff on the frontline who have no training or inappropriate training that would be there… and that would be very powerful.”
Lord Willis also criticised the government’s plan to make aspiring nurses work as HCAs for a year to gain entry onto a funded nursing course, pointing out neither his own review nor the Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry report had recommended it.
He said: “The idea that students choose to enter this profession to become complacent in the ‘normalisation of cruelty’ is as offensive as it is wrong.
“For most students the experience of working in a caring capacity is a fundamental requirement and experience as a HCA may be valuable. But only where it’s accompanied by high quality training and supervision and so far not a word has accompanied the [government’s] proposals.”
The Liberal Democrat peer also criticised the use of psychometric tests to recruit new nurses citing the lack of evidence such testing could identify whether an individual would make a caring nurse. Following the publication of the Francis report in to Mid Staffordshire in February Health Education England announced plans to test all potential nursing students for their values using an “aptitude test”. It is understood this is likely to include some form of psychometric testing.
Asked whether he agreed with Robert Francis QC’s recommendations on education of nurses Lord Willis said there was “nothing fundamentally wrong” with them but “wished” Mr Francis had spent more time looking at the practical elements of nurse education, such as mentoring.
“That’s the bit that really needs to be pulled up by its boot straps,” he said. “To have people at the end of a twelve hour shift sitting in a corner to observe a student or sign off their competencies can’t be right.”
He called for mentoring to be seen as a “major career development, not just an add-on” and for more recognition that not all nurses were suitable to be mentors.
He also criticised the sheer number of recommendations in the Francis report.
“The idea we are going to implement 290 recommendations is farcical,” he said.