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Call for HCA regulation reaches the Lords

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Lack of regulation for healthcare assistants is “unsatisfactory” and mandatory nurse staffing ratios should be introduced, peers have told the House of Lords.

Two speakers placed nursing at centre stage last week during a two day debate on the government’s controversial Health and Social Care Bill.  

Baroness Abigail Masham criticised lack of training standards and regulation for HCAs, adding that the public often could not tell them apart from registered nurses.

She highlighted that HCAs were “often dressed up in uniforms that make them indistinguishable from nurses” even though there were “no consistent UK-wide training standards” for them.

She said: “Assistant practitioners undertake more complex tasks than healthcare assistants, but again there is no training consistency across the UK. Both often undertake tasks for which they are not trained.”

She called for registration of HCAs to be made mandatory, echoing similar calls made in recent weeks by the Nursing and Midwifery council and the Royal College of Nursing.

“Lack of regulation means employment as a support worker may be obtained by people who have been dismissed from a previous healthcare post for misconduct, or who have been struck off the register as a nurse or a midwife,” she said.

Meanwhile Baroness Audrey Emerton warned peers that the RCN was “reporting large reductions in numbers of staff, which are not being replaced by nursing posts, and that specialist nurses are being redeployed from their nursing posts to do other duties”. She backed the RCN’s calls for mandatory nurse staffing levels and ratios.

Following the debate, the Lords voted through the bill at its second reading, defeating motions that would have significantly delayed its progress or led to it being abandoned altogether. The bill will now pass to the committee stage, where Lords will review the legislation line by line.

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