Calls For The Regulation of Healthcare Assistants

Without any regulation in place for a role within the healthcare professions, there is room for dangerous errors to be made and for standards not to be kept high. This is why there are registered nursing courses and long laborious University and medical school training routes for doctors, surgeons and other healthcare professionals. What about the lower level assistant jobs though, such as Healthcare Assistants?

The role of the Healthcare Assistant is to provide basic care to a patient, including monitoring their temperature, taking blood pressure readings, helping maintain their personal hygiene and feeding and changing them if needed. It may seem that tasks like these are pretty standardised and hard to make an error in, but more and more Healthcare Assistants have to perform more important tasks in patient care as nurses start to buckle under the workload. It may not have been in the Healthcare Assistant’s training to perform nurse jobs such as giving injections, and if performed incorrectly there could be complications.

To become a Healthcare Assistant you do not need any specific qualifications, just a good education and good work experience, the training is provided on the job, but it appears there is no across-the-board standard, and any real regulation of the job does not exist. Therefore it is hard to know from one hospital to the next, one Healthcare Assistant to another what skills have been gained and to what level. Some Healthcare Assistants may be carrying out what could be considered as nursing jobs, but not at the same standard as a nurse would in terms of patient care and knowledge of the job in hand. Also, worryingly, a lack of regulation could mean that there’s no way of striking off an incompetent worker and stopping them trying to find work at another hospital.

In a survey conducted amongst Healthcare Assistants earlier this year by Ipsos MORI on behalf of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), a staggering 85% of Healthcare Assistants said they feel that their work should be regulated, with 89% being willing to pay towards the regulation. Dr Peter Carter, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary said in response “The Healthcare Assistant members in the survey were keen to be professionally regulated alongside registered nurses and almost all saw official recognition of their role and protecting the good name of HCAs as benefits of professional regulation, alongside increased trust and confidence from registered nurses and the public.”

More recently the Royal College of Nursing in Wales has called for the regulation of Healthcare Workers. RCN Wales director Tina Donnelly has said she has long been arguing for the regulation and has herself experienced problems with things going wrong when her blood pressure was not taken correctly. A series of incorrect readings would have led to her being treated for a condition she doesn’t actually have. Within Wales, a multidisciplinary group is being set up to form some regulatory structure for Healthcare Assistants, however, it has been stressed that the regulations must support the role’s current flexibility.

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