One of the country’s senior nurses has warned that training for healthcare assistants is “Victorian” and puts patients at risk.
Writing in Nursing Times this week, Queen’s Institute for Nursing director Rosemary Cook warns that the education and regulation of HCAs must be made “standard and compulsory” urgently.
No one would argue today against regulation and high quality training for nurses - so why are HCAs still fighting for this right?
She compares the inconsistencies in HCA training to those experienced by nurses 100 years ago.
She writes: “With nurse education now based in higher education, and all nursing courses soon to lead to a degree level qualification, it would appear that we have solved the problems that the Victorian approach threw up: inconsistency in approach, parochialism of outlook, variation in inputs and serendipity of outcomes.
“But we are recreating exactly these issues in relation to the preparation of healthcare assistants.”
Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said: “No one would argue today against regulation and high quality training for nurses - so why are HCAs still fighting for this right?
“Survey after survey shows that HCAs also see regulation as an important step in the right direction,” she added.
However Matthew Hamilton, director of policy at the Councils of Deans of Health, defended the quality of education provided to HCAs.
He said: “Universities give a good education for healthcare assistants, demonstrated by the fact that many of them go on to become registered nurses. We’re very proud of that.”
Ms Cook’s comments follow a review in August, carried out by the National Nursing Research Unit for the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which also said there were strong patient safety grounds for regulating all HCAs.
A Department of Health spokeswoman told Nursing Times that the government would be looking at regulation in “more detail” next year, including that of HCAs.
In Scotland, all new HCAs will be required to achieve a set of induction standards and to comply with a code of conduct from 31 December.
The Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence has previously suggested it may set up a voluntary register for HCAs.