A major expansion in assistant practitioner numbers and roles will be needed over the next decade to cope with the squeeze on NHS finances, the national body that monitors healthcare skills has predicted.
The forecast, from Skills for Health, comes after the Health and Social Care Bill was seen to have signalled the government’s intention not to introduce formal regulation of healthcare assistants in favour of a voluntary register.
Skills for Health’s annual analysis of the healthcare workforce in the NHS, independent and voluntary sectors concluded that development of roles at levels 3 to 4 of the NHS career framework – roughly equivalent to pay bands 3 and 4 – would allow employers to “meet the increasing demand for health provision within tightening budgets” over the next 10 years.
The report also said there would be an increased need for advanced practitioners, at the equivalent of band 7, and that training resources would need to be “re-targeted” to allow staff to develop skills “outside their traditional boundary”.
Royal College of Nursing director of policy development Howard Catton said that the college supported the training and development of band 3 and 4 staff. However, he warned that the impact of any significant change in skill mix must be carefully assessed.
“My concern is whether, in the current economic climate, this will result in crude substitution driven by cost pressures and the need to produce savings that in the long run could have a detrimental effect on the standard of patient care,” he said.