The introduction of a proposed new senior health care assistant role could “potentially undermine” those already employed as band 4 assistant practitioners, Unison has claimed.
The recommendation – made by a major education and training review last week – is designed to bridge the gap between this part of the workforce and registered nurses.
But the union said the further suggestion to bring in this new role at Agenda for Change band 3 could encourage employers to “scrap” band 4 posts.
It claimed the Shape of Caring Review had pre-judged the level and pay band of the new role on cost grounds and could mean existing staff employed at the band above this are penalised.
“Any message that encourages employers to scrap band 4 posts on cost grounds could be very damaging and counter-productive”
A “proper assessment” of the scope and potential of the new role, and how it would operate in different healthcare settings is required before any decision is made on what pay band it could sit within, said the union.
“The review appears to pre-judge the level and pay band of the new role on cost grounds, potentially undermining the good practice already developed by many employers around band 4 assistant practitioners,” said Unison head of health Christina McAnea.
“Any message that encourages employers to scrap band 4 posts on cost grounds could be very damaging and counter-productive,” she said.
Ms McAnea added: “Many health care assistants are desperate to gain new skills and progress in their careers. The principle of a defined role between HCAs and registered nurses is an attractive one, especially if it delivers a recognised qualification and career structure in its own right, and allows those that want to take nursing qualifications to do so.
“Unfortunately the deployment and development of HCAs has been haphazard for too long.”
Despite this warning, the union did welcome the review’s focus on prioritising education and training for nursing staff.
The Shape of Caring Review was commissioned by national workforce planning body Health Education England last May to improve future pre-registration and post-registration nurse education and training in England.
It was chaired by Lord Willis of Knaresborough, who made 34 recommendations in total.