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Bill amendment on HCA regulation withdrawn


Baroness Emerton has withdrawn an amendment to the health bill, which would have brought in statutory regulation for healthcare assistants, to the disappointment of nursing unions.

The amendment was debated yesterday in the House of Lords, where the bill is currently at the report stage.

Crossbench peer and former NHS chief nursing officer Baroness Emerton had tabled measures to regulate “health care support workers” in England.

Her amendment would have brought HCAs under the supervision of the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

The amendement defined a healthcare support worker as “an individual whose work is routinely delegated to them by a registered nurse or midwife or has a qualification in health and social care at level one (or higher) of the Qualifications and Credit Framework, in England”.

Despite widespread support among peers for the amendment, health minister Earl Howe said he was unconvinced by the need for mandatory regulation.

The government has previously rejected such a move on grounds of cost and is instead proposing a voluntary register for HCAs, along with standardised training and a code of conduct for HCAs.

Earl Howe told peers that the voluntary register would be reviewed after three years. Statutory regulation will be reconsidered as part of the review, he said.

In response, Baroness Emerton said she would withdraw the amendment “for today” and that she would carefully consider the government’s proposals.

Unison and the Royal College of Nursing have consistently called for mandatory HCA regulation.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “We genuinely believe that a voluntary code does not go far enough.

“While the announcement to develop standardised training and a code of conduct is welcomed, we feel that the decision to review the need for mandatory regulation is effectively kicking the issue into the long grass and will not address the pressing issues of patient safety.

“These now need to be considered as a matter of urgency, not in three years’ time,” he added.

Unison head of nursing Gail Adams said it was “disappointing” Baroness Emerton had withdrawn her amendment.

“Unison has campaigned long and hard for compulsory registration,” she said. “It is about time that the government recognised the vital role they play in the day to day care of patients and ensured that they had the necessary training and recognition.  

Ms Adams reiterated Unison’s view that the Health Professions Council was best placed to regulated health and social care workers, rather than the NMC.

Skills for Health is due to begin work in April on national minimum training standards and a code of conduct for healthcare support workers.


Readers' comments (7)

  • as a nursing auxiliary im very disappointed that we are not going to be regulated.

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  • Valuable reading of thepost chat blog at #nurchat of last evening in view of this I believe !

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  • once again government and a former nurse know better than the experts such as HCAs and nurses working 24/24 on the front line and the other experts supporting them in the professional bodies and unions.

    Refusal on grounds of cost cannot possibly be a valid argument as costs cannot be put on human life and costs to the health service, staff, tax payer and government will probably be far higher in the long run.

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  • wrong decision, what a silly woman.

    The public opinion of nurses has hit an all time low and every effort should be made to ensure that everyone delivering care is properly regulated, trained and supported.

    Many HCAs no longer need to have work regularly delegated to them or work under supervision.

    Why do we allow people who no longer work in the health system make these decisions.

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  • myopic!

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  • Tiger Girl

    I think it is really adequate training of HCAs, which is necessary - regulation might help, or might be reduced to simply evidence that some sort of 'lowest common denominator' level of competence had been achieved.

    Might it not be better, to introduce and enforce a requirement that HCAs are properly trained and assessed in the skills they need to utilise in their actual place of work ? Do all HCAs, do closely similar tasks - or does it cary according to their particular job ? If it varies, specific training to suit their daily tasks is what is needed - after all, nurses and doctors tend to become specialised, don't they ?

    There should be some system of recognising that any particular HCA has gained those skills, but I'm still not sure if regulation is the whole answer, here ?

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  • Tiger Girl

    typo - or does it vary according to their particular job

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