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Struck off nurses 'still on wards' says Weir-Hughes

  • 12 Comments

British hospital wards could face a “ghastly national disaster” because of the growing number of unregulated healthcare assistants, the Nursing and Midwifery Council said.

Dickon Weir-Hughes, chief executive of the nursing regulator, has called for ministers to create standardised regulations for the hundreds of thousands of workers who are responsible for a lot of the basic care needed by NHS patients.

Professor Weir-Hughes told The Times that some nurses struck off for risking patient safety were still working on wards as healthcare assistants.

He told the newspaper: “We’ve struck people off as nurses who have then come back and worked as healthcare support workers. There’s nothing to prevent them from doing that.

“If they’ve done something wrong that’s very technical, that doesn’t mean they couldn’t give a bed bath, but I don’t think any member of the public would expect a struck-off nurse or midwife to be looking after them as a healthcare support worker.”

He added that even though hundreds of complaints are made about healthcare assistants each year, officials have no power to act.

“All we can do is to say you either have to go to the person’s employer, or if it’s sufficiently serious call the police. There are no other mechanisms,” he said.

The council is drawing up guidelines for nurses who do not know when they need to perform tasks - such as feeding or washing patients - or when they can delegate to assistants.

A Department of Health spokesman said: “The case for introducing national statutory regulation must be proportionate to any risks posed.

“We intend to establish a system of voluntary registration, which could deliver the same benefits as a statutory scheme for those employers who choose to use registered workers, and without the cost and bureaucracy associated with a statutory scheme.

“If there are complaints about healthcare assistants they should be directed to the employing organisation. The employing organisation would have a duty to refer the individual to the Independent Safeguarding Authority if there are concerns the individual could pose a risk of harm.”

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  • 12 Comments

Readers' comments (12)

  • The DOH spokesman stated "the case for introducing national statutory regulation must be proportionate to any risk involved" Perhaps he should have stated that the Government will not introduce regulation as the millions of Health Care Assistants would then expect a wage far above the National Minimum Standard. Health Care Assistants and care workers are amongst the lowest members of our workforce yet they have a huge responsibility, often with little or inadequate training to support their vital role on our ailing Health Service.Regulation is vital to improve service and lessen risk of unsafe practise.

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  • I am not sure the unregistered memebrs of hospital workforce carry any responsibility --- as this is the domain of the registered nurse who has delegated tasks to this individual.
    We need the regulation so we have an employment history in case of risk -- but we need adequate registered nurses on the wards to supervise these members of staff so they and the patients are not put in situations of risk.

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  • The DoH knee jerk defensive reaction to the call for registration for HCAs is typical and totally misses the point that well trained regulated and accountable nurses - like the old SENs funnily enough! - will have a pride in their work, and recognition of their skills reflected in their pay packet will provide a huge payback in terms of improved patient care. Most of the HCAs I work with are brilliant and that level of care should be recognised with a decent qualification in nursing and a place on the register. Anyone can get an NVQ; it is not specific to nursing care and a 'proper qualification' is a stepping stone for those who do not have sufficient A levels or financial confidence to go to university at 18 to get a degree.

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  • Anonymous | 27-Sep-2011 1:37 pm you have to be very careful though in stating "Most of the HCAs I work with are brilliant and that level of care should be recognised with a decent qualification in nursing and a place on the register", because there is still a world of difference between a HCA, even a registered one with an NVQ, and a fully qualified Staff Nurse. There is a danger in using the term Nurse as a description for anyone except a trained and qualified Staff Nurse, and there does need to be a distinction between them. This in no way is a dig at HCAs, but a recognition that are roles ARE seperate, despite being closely intertwined, and that there are a vast amount of complaints about 'Nurses' to the NMC that turn out to be not against Nurses at all, because the public quite frankly does not know who is who already.

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  • A registration body for HCAs, care workers and support workers has existed for over a year. It is called the Professional Carers Association and promotes excellence in practise, training and support. www.professionalcarers.co.uk

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  • Phoebe, isn't that voluntary? Or am I mistaken?

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  • George Kuchanny

    There you go Phoebe! The entire truth is that the NMC has been grossly dysfuntional for years. So why is Professor Wier-Hughes so sure that the NMC will dramatically improve? The PCA looks a much better option.

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  • Hang on a second.......

    "We intend to establish a system of voluntary registration, which could deliver the same benefits as a statutory scheme for those employers who choose to use registered workers, and without the cost and bureaucracy associated with a statutory scheme"

    So why isn't this Regulatory Nirvana's significantly cheaper modus operandi being applied to our statutory scheme (aka NMC)? Clearly it is possible to run a regulatory body more cheaply so why does the NMC charge so much for periodic registration? They will point to their overspend on legal bills and that can only be because of poor management.

    Regulation of the unqualified workforce is a good idea - particularly as they are a far more skilled and knowlegeable group than they were even ten years ago, but how about getting the NMC - or better still a replacement for it - working efficiently in a cost effective manner.

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  • "The council is drawing up guidelines for nurses who do not know when they need to perform tasks - such as feeding or washing patients - or when they can delegate to assistants."

    Should someone be a nurse if the can't even work out when to do the above? I'm NQ and have the common sense on how to prioritise my workload and appropriately delegate tasks so that things get done.

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  • The ability to delegate comes from learning from more experienced colleagues and from experience itself. A nurse does not automatically know how to delegate effectively.

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