New training standards and role definitions for healthcare support workers have been unveiled by the Welsh government.
The new framework will apply to clinical healthcare support workers in nursing, midwifery and allied health professional roles from 1 April, 2016.
“Healthcare support workers are a significant part of our NHS workforce and make a valuable contribution to service delivery in both clinical and non-clinical services”
The framework is intended to introduce a common set of standards for training and education, in order to “recognise the skills, knowledge and experience of individuals as they develop in their role”.
It has been designed to provide the foundation for healthcare assistant practice and to be the route to career progression, whether this is an “on-the-job requirement or a personal aspiration”.
“It will support current and future role development by standardising the scope of these roles, and through the development of learning pathways it will provide the underpinning knowledge and skills to practice safely,” said the 24-page framework document.
The framework sets out three strata of healthcare support work, from level 2 to 4.
A level 2 support worker will at “all times” work under the delegation of a registered practitioner or assistant practitioner in the delivery of person-centred care. They will be responsible for following care plans and recording all observations and documenting care given in an individual’s notes.
A level 3 on the other hand will have a “greater degree of autonomy” and may undertake a broader range of more complex interventions, problem solving and taking action on an individual’s health and care in accordance with organisational policy and procedures.
“They will work on their own initiative, undertaking delegated tasks with appropriate supervision in place from a registered practitioner/assistant practitioner,” stated the framework.
Meanwhile, a level 4 “assistant practitioner” is expected to independently manage their own work and caseload, undertaking tasks delegated by a registered practitioner with appropriate supervision.
“They will be responsible for some elements of assessment, implementing programmes of care and modifying individualised care plans, reporting back to the registered practitioner,” said the framework, adding: “They may delegate work to others and may supervise, teach and assess other staff.”
The development of the NHS Wales Skills and Career Framework for Healthcare Support Workers supporting Nursing and the Allied Health Professions was led by Philippa Ford, from the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy.
Health minister for Wales Professor Mark Drakeford said: “Healthcare support workers are a significant part of our NHS workforce and make a valuable contribution to service delivery in both clinical and non-clinical services.”
Professor Drakeford noted the move was part of the government’s response to the Health Professional Education Investment review, which was published in April.
The government-commissioned review – led by Mel Evans, former chair of Powys Teaching Health Board – called for fundamental changes in workforce planning as a result.
Among its recommendations, the review said a new national body should be created to oversee the planning and commissioning of education and training places for nurses, doctors and other health professionals.
It also called for a greater emphasis on multi-disciplinary teams and more joint training of different healthcare professionals.
“I said that workforce design and development is among the most powerful levers we possess in creating a prudent healthcare system”
In addition, it said ongoing professional training and development for those already working in the health service “must become part of the DNA of NHS Wales”.
Mr Drakeford said: “The review focussed on the need to invest in our current workforce and to provide opportunities for all healthcare workers to develop their skills and careers through recognition and accreditation of the work they undertake on a daily basis while they look after patients.
“The new NHS Wales Skills and Career Development Framework for Healthcare Support Workers will help ensure this happens for this very important group of staff,” he added.
The new framework is being taken forward in phases – the first is designed to support clinical healthcare support workers.
Work will continue on the next phase of the framework, aimed at non-clinical healthcare support workers and identifying how social care support workers and healthcare support workers can be integrated into a single framework.
During this period of further development, ministers said the NHS organisations will have an opportunity to focus on the development of existing staff before the framework becomes mandatory from April 1, 2018.