The chief executive of the NHS has dismissed calls from two of the country’s most senior nurses for healthcare assistants to be regulated, saying “nurses would say that wouldn’t they?”.
During his evidence to the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust public inquiry last week Sir David Nicholson was asked to respond to the comments, widely reported in the national media, from Royal College of Nursing chief executive Peter Carter and Nursing and Midwifery Council boss Dickon Weir-Hughes.
Professor Weir-Hughes warned the country was heading for a “ghastly national disaster” without regulation.
Sir David said: “I’m not convinced that spending a huge amount of time and effort in [creating] the registration organisation, as opposed to putting the effort into training and education, might be a better way forward. And, of course, the nursing profession would say all of that, wouldn’t they?”
The inquiry is examining why appalling standards of care at the trust went unnoticed for so long and is considering whether regulating HCAs could help improve standards in future.
However, Sir David told the inquiry regulating such a huge and diverse workforce, whose roles ranged from “housekeeping to the direct care of patients”, was a complex task and was not of “top importance” at the moment when the NHS was going through major reform and financial challenge.
Inquiry chairman Robert Francis QC questioned his priorities, asking what could be more important than ensuring that the people “charged with feeding and providing basic care to our most vulnerable patients are fit and proper people to do that?”
Sir David said training and education was more important than regulation.