The vast majority of UK healthcare assistants want a professional register to regulate their occupation, a small survey suggests.
As many as 93% support compulsory registration, according to the survey of 385 staff carried out by the British Journal of Healthcare Assistants.
The reform was recommended by the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry report in February, but dismissed by ministers last month.
Ministers said mandatory regulation for HCAs would introduce too much red tape for the many staff working across the public and private sectors. They also said it would be unfair to ask low-paid assistants to pay annual fees to finance the system.
Instead code of conduct and minimum training levels, similar to the initiative already operating in Scotland, were published by Skills for Health.
But the new online survey of BJHA readers indicates that the money worries are not justified. More than two-thirds (67%) of healthcare assistants drawn from hospitals, the community and care homes said they would be happy to pay an annual registration charge.
The poll also shows HCAs are more worried about staff shortages and the emphasis on targets.
The mandatory regulation of HCAs has long been called for by nursing unions.
Gail Adams, Unison head of nursing, said: “Healthcare assistants have made their strong support for regulation clear yet again. Such is their strength of feeling, they would even be prepared to pay for it out of their own pockets, despite their low wages.
“Regulation would also mean that every healthcare assistant would get a minimum level of training. It is a disgrace that the majority of healthcare support workers, who provide much of the hands on care to patients, say they have had less less than four days of training in the last year.”
Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “This is a welcome and timely survey. Healthcare support workers are a crucial part of health care delivery, and their views are often under-represented.
“The RCN is deeply concerned that registration has been dismissed in the government’s response to the Francis Inquiry, but surely it must now be a priority for the highest standard of patient care.”
Unite head of health Rachael Maskell addeed: “The survey shows what healthcare assistants, who are at the frontline in delivering care, want to happen – statutory regulation to reassure the public on patient safety and to reinforce the status of this vital profession.
“The fact that two-thirds of those surveyed would be prepared to pay a registration fee shows that healthcare assistants are willing to put their money where their mouth is.”
But a Department of Health spokeswoman said such a register would be a “bureaucratic tick-box exercise”.
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