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HCAs should have 'e-portfolio' of competencies to prove their worth


An electronic portfolio of competencies achieved by healthcare assistants and signed off by registered staff should be introduced to “raise the bar” in standards, a national review of care and nursing education has recommended.

The Shape of Caring Review proposes a major overhaul of the way HCAs are trained, calling for national competency standards to be developed for the workforce across both health and social care in England.

“I envisage every care worker in the future having their own ‘app’ onto which goes all their competencies which will be signed off by a person with a badge and a number”

Phil Willis

Chaired by Lord Willis of Knaresborough, the review recommends care workers are assessed against the proposed competencies and then signed off by registered staff, before these achievements are recorded on the individual’s personal portfolio.

This “ground-breaking” system would ensure care workers in England have for the first time a standardised record of their achievements to date, and that patients and families know staff caring for them have the required competencies, said Lord Willis.

“I envisage every care worker in the future having their own ‘app’. It’s as simple as that – onto which goes all their competencies which will be signed off by a person with a badge and a number so you can trace who they are,” Lord Willis told Nursing Times.

This electronic portfolio, which should also be accessible to employers, would help the profession to self-regulate, he said.

Meanwhile, the forthcoming national care certificate – which includes 15 fundamental standards that health and social care workers should meet within their first 12 weeks in the role – must become mandatory, said Lord Willis in his review.

He said he hoped that within five years, employers will have ensured the majority of their care workers – not just new ones – have obtained the certificate.

The Liberal Democrat peer has in the past called for those on Agenda for Change pay bands 3 and 4 to be registered with a body and regulated, based on his previous research into nursing education for the Royal College of Nursing.

However, following the Shape of Caring Review, he told Nursing Times that regulation was not possible at the moment, because there were no standards to assess care assistants against.

Instead, he said the introduction of a standardised skills portfolio that can be transferred between jobs would enable employers to assess whether care workers are competent to carry out tasks and help them to identify dismissals or other problems from past posts.

“I’m more interested in raising the bar, in terms of investing in colleagues, rewarding them in terms of status and in delivering them a lifeline career path.

“That seems a better way of raising standards and keeping patients safe than saying we must have lots of draconian policies in place,” he said.

What did the Shape of Caring Review recommend?

  • HEE should work with the care sector to develop or use an existing e-portfolio tool that will allow signed-off competencies to be recorded electronically on a national database for care assistants, across both the health and social care sectors.

All competencies held within the database will be achieved at nationally accepted standards (which are quality assured on a regular basis) so that they are truly transferable and accepted by all health and social care organisations; reducing the duplication of unnecessary education and training.


Readers' comments (13)

  • I dont like the title of this article.
    A record of competencies or any other recording does not prove someones worth.
    Good communication skills, self awareness, kindness and the ability to ask when you dont know or seek a second opinion to make sure is far more important.
    I have an RGN qualification but I hope this is not all I'm worth because I have an array of different skills, some very old but I am learning every single day.
    I used to have a certificate to say that I could do male catherterisation or give intra-venous drugs but have worked in schools for the last 13 years where I haven't had much need for this. Does it improve my worth because I could do this or does it make me less of a worthy nurse because I'm no longer competant at this, although I still have the certificate.
    I am now a much more confident nurse when it comes to dealing with mental health in teenagers, communication with multi-discplinary teams and dealing with minor injuries and illnesses but do not have a certificate for this. Does this make me worthless at my job and should I be trying to prove my worth.

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  • I think it a good idea in principle for HCA's to have a record somewhere of their competences. In many settings HCA's are providing care that was once only provided by registered nurses, surely it makes sense to have documentation to show they are competent to do so? In answer to Sara I would say that having a certificate of competence only shows you are competent at the time it was issued. Most areas require updates to be taken or at least yearly validation of certificates. Progress continues with research based knowledge incorporated into present day practice. If you have worked outside acute care for 13 years you must realise how much has changed, however some things never change and that is the importance of all the qualities you mention, of which you should be proud .

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  • I also think it's a good idea in principle I just dont like the title.
    I suppose it is working with teenagers who are so hard on themselves all of the time and think they are worthless if they dont achieve exam grades, whether they are a* students or average students trying to tell them they are worth something is often very difficult to communicate.

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  • michael stone

    I've also written on NT a while ago, about HCAs building up a record of competencies in something akin to a pilot's log book (which details the types of aircraft a pilot has flown in, and the hours flown). I seem to remember saying that the standards need to be national, but that the assessors could be nurses where the HCA works.

    It is possible I said that to the review - got an e-mail from the review today, so obviously I sent something to them !

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  • michael stone | 12-Mar-2015 1:38 pm

    who in the H do you think you are? you have never worked on a ward and have no clue about the training needs of staff. soon you will be believe you run the NHS! go and find yourself some meaningful job to do!

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  • HCSW

    Not really a good idea. Level of the competence can be assessed during 15 second chat between RGN and a auxiliary. But lets go to the details:

    1. Courtesy, kindness
    2. Feeding, dressing
    3. Wiping, continence
    4. Obs (manual), recording data in charts
    5. Photocopying,
    6. ECG, bladder scan
    7. Any other (simple) tasks required,

    I cant really think about anything else than items above on a typical, medical ward.

    Time to stop that parnassianistic trends in developing new, useless forms.

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  • HCSW
    You were saying on another thread that you were as virtually qualified as an RGN after many years in your role, and having seen your list above I can only agree with you, as throughout my many years of training and subsequent registration I have yet to be formally assessed on my ability to use a photocopier.
    As for parnassianistic trends in developing new, useless forms I fail to see what a 19th century French poetry movement has to do with the future training of HCAs? Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, perhaps?

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  • michael stone

    I was reading the summary report yesterday evening - I think many HCAs would welcome this recommendation:

    12. HEE, in collaboration with employers and HEIs, should support the development of more innovative work-based learning routes. Those learning routes should be standardised to allow care assistants to move easily into the nursing profession without having to give up their employment, as they study and train for their nursing degree and registered nurse status.

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  • HCSW

    @ redpaddys12 | 13-Mar-2015 3:29 am
    "You were saying on another thread that you were as virtually qualified as an RGN after many years in your role"


    Please, rest assured: I fully understand my limitations, and my responsibilities

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  • HCSW

    " I fail to see what a 19th century French poetry movement has to do with the future training of HCAs"

    That's because of your limitations ;)

    They were writing poems about .. writing poems. Pure nonsense, isn't it? Sounds familiar now?

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