The introduction of a new senior healthcare assistant role that could be formally introduced at Agenda for Change band 3 should be investigated by England’s national workforce planning body, according to major education and training review of care workers and nurses.
Designed to bridge the gap between care assistants and registered nurses, staff in the proposed new role would be trained to carry out tasks delegated by nurses, said Lord Willis of Knaresborough, chair of the Shape of Caring Review.
The move would help to provide a career path for HCAs who want to remain in the assistant workforce, while also creating further stepping stones for those that want to become qualified nurses, he said in an interview with Nursing Times.
“We want HEE to devise a curriculum by asking the question – what are the higher care skills needed right across that sector in order to deliver safe care that underpins high quality nursing”
Lord Willis said those in the new role, called advanced care practitioners, would be trained to complete tasks such as phlebotomy and taking ECGs, plus helping to design – along with registered nurses – the day to day care packages for patients.
However, he stressed his proposal was not to explore bringing back assistant nurses – often referred to as state enrolled nurses or SENs.
Lord Willis said he was “utterly and totally opposed” to re-creating the position of SEN, which used to require less training than degree nurses.
He stressed that the new advanced care assistant would need to meet “all requirements of being a graduate nurse”, if they wanted to progress to that level.
His comments come despite recent support for the re-introduction of SENs by the UK Independence Party and care minster Norman Lamb, who recently said he was “attracted” to bringing back a post “akin” to SENs.
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Lord Willis said the advanced care practitioner role would be trained according to a new curriculum that should be devised by workforce planning body Health Education England.
“We want HEE to devise a curriculum by asking the question – what are the higher care skills needed right across that sector in order to deliver safe care that underpins high quality nursing?,” he told Nursing Times.
He said the advanced care practitioner role “naturally lies” within band 3 rather than band 4 – the highest pay point a health care assistant can reach – because this would encourage employers to invest in further training opportunities for those who want to become graduate nurses.
The Liberal Democrat peer said it also prevented the necessary distinction between senior HCAs and registered nurses from becoming “blurred”.
Another recommendation within the review is for care assistants to be able to complete undergraduate nurse training in a shorter time than the usual three years by using some of their care experience to account for elements of the degree.
Lord Willis suggested the advanced care practitioner role would be able to benefit from such fast-track training – referred to as accreditation of prior experiential learning (APEL) – by using their experience to graduate within one and a half years in some cases.
As revealed by Nursing Times earlier this week, HEE intends to take forward the idea of encouraging HCAs who wish to become registrants to complete nursing degrees faster than is currently the norm at present.
What did the Shape of Caring Review recommend?
- HEE should explore with others the need to develop a defined care role at NHS Agenda for Change band 3 that would act as a bridge between the unregulated care assistant workforce and the registered nursing workforce.
- Care assistants should be offered APEL that could account for up to 50% of the undergraduate nursing degree.