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HCAs drive up performance scores

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The close relationships healthcare assistants develop with patients are an opportunity for trusts to drive up their performance scores, researchers have found.

In interviews and focus groups as part of ground breaking research on the HCA role, patients said they had closer relationships with HCAs than nurses.

One of the authors, Said Business School senior research associate Paul Heron, said this meant nursing directors who want to improve a trust’s patient satisfaction scores should look at their HCAs.

He told Nursing Times: “HCAs make a vital contribution to the things a trust is measured on. A nurse director said to us, ‘If you want to improve on that you need to focus on HCAs because they do the washing and feeding and toileting.’

“Patients like HCAs, they get on with them and see a lot of benefits to being cared for by them.”

There have been concerns patients get confused between the roles of HCAs and nurses.

But the researchers found that those patients who were able to distinguish between the two rated their care more highly.

“Introducing themselves in their role saves a lot of frustration to the patient,” Mr Heron said.

He said the recent national inpatient survey was “in error” in ignoring HCAs and not collecting discrete information on patients’ views about the quality of care they provided.

The research says HCAs have specific, extra skills that nurses do not have and which are distinct from their support role.

The report said “HCAs could sometimes uniquely elicit information and responses from a patient” that nurses could then act on.

For example, observers witnessed an assistant from the same ethnic background as a patient translating their wishes to the nursing staff. They often also had much stronger local links than nurses.

In the survey HCAs reported being more comfortable than nurses in dealing with verbally abusive or deeply upset patients.

Nurses interviewed for the study identified additional HCA qualities as “an extra pair of eyes” and as informal mentors for new nursing staff and students.

NHS London’s programme director for modernising nursing careers Kathryn Jones said HCAs might develop the relationships they do with patients because they are less likely to be interrupted in their duties than nurses.

But she said: “A team of HCAs is only as good as the nurse in charge.”

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Readers' comments (2)

  • If patients get confused with Nurses role and HCA,S role then give us back our proper title of Auxlllary.

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  • This is so unfair. These trusts give each Nurse more patients than she can handle which leads her to have to run around like a nut to manage all the drugs, meds, etc. She has so many jobs to do that she cannot spend more than 30 seconds with a patient at a time.

    The HCA has none of these responsibilites and outnumbers the Nurses. No wonder the patient's rate them so highly. The HCA's are actually able to spend time with the patients without killing someone else. This is something that Nurse on a ward can no longer dO BECAUSE OF INTENTIONAL SHORT STAFFING OF BEDSIDE RN'S BY MANAGEMENT.

    The patients can love the HCA's all they want. The fact is that a growing body of research evidence (over 65 studies) is showing us that when patients are receiving total care (including basic care) by an RN with a small number of patients their mortality rates are lower and their chances of developing a complication are lower. It is not cost effective to use HCA's BECAUSE OF THE EXPENSIVE COMPLICATIONS THAT PATIENTS DEVELOP AS A RESULT OF RN SHORT STAFFING.

    Why are the freaks who run the NHS to dumb to understand that we need well educated RN's on the wards at the bedside?

    These managers are killing people and are going to incur further costs as a result of increased lawsuits, failure to rescue, expensive complications, and delayed discharges at a time when they are supposed to be saving money.

    They would save money by having more RN's at the bedside rather than HCA's but they are so uneducated regarding the role of a nurse they assume that university educated people don't need to work on the wards.

    My trust has had a recruitment freeze on RN's for years. So many RN's apply at my trust (new grads and old trained) looking for jobs as bedside nurses AND THE TRUST WILL NOT HAVE THEM.





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