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Healthcare assistants to receive better training

A Certificate of Fundamental Care will be needed before they can work unsupervised

Ingrid Torjesen

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Some healthcare assistants have not received sufficient training in order to undertake the services they are required to provide to patients, a government commissioned independent review has found.

The review, undertaken by Sunday Times assistant editor Camilla Cavendish, found that the quality of training and support that care workers receive in the NHS and social care system varies between organisations.  It recommends that all healthcare assistants in hospitals and social care support workers working in care homes and people’s own homes undergo the same basic training and be awarded a ‘Certificate of Fundamental Care’ before they can care for people unsupervised.

Healthcare assistants should be allowed to use the title ‘Nursing Assistant’ on completion of the Certificate of Fundamental Care to improve clarity and communication between staff and patients, enhance the status of support workers and reduce the number of job titles - which currently stands at more than 60. Talented care workers should then be able to progress into nursing and social care through the creation of a ‘Higher Certificate of Fundamental Care’.

The review says that Health Education England, with Skills for Health and Skills for Care, should develop proposals for a rigorous system of quality assurance for training and qualifications, which links to funding outcomes, so that money is not wasted on ineffective courses. And the Nursing and Midwifery Council should make caring experience a prerequisite to starting a nursing degree and review the contribution of vocational experience towards degrees.

It adds that trusts should empower directors of nursing to take full responsibility for the recruitment, training and management of healthcare assistants, and that employers should also be supported to test the values, attitudes and aptitude of future staff for caring at the recruitment stage.

It also recommends that the legal processes for challenging poor performance should be reviewed so that employers can be more effective in identifying and removing any unsatisfactory staff.

Ms Cavendish said: “There are more care assistants than nurses working in England. Many of us will rely on them at some point in our lives, in particular in old age, and we need them to be as good as they can possibly be – especially as some support workers are carrying out procedures which used to be done by nurses, even doctors.

“I have seen many examples of excellent and skilled care, but I have been struck by how disconnected the systems are.

“For people to get the best care, there must be less complexity and duplication and a greater focus on ensuring that support staff are treated with the seriousness they deserve – for some of them are the most caring of all.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “We are determined to build a compassionate health and social care system – one where people are always treated as individuals, with kindness and respect.”

The Government will provide a formal response to the Review, along with its response to the Francis Report, in the autumn.

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