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Healthcare assistants would benefit from nursing training

Friday 20th April 2018
Healthcare assistants are being increasingly asked to carry out extra tasks in UK hospitals, which suggests they would benefit from some form of formal nursing training. Image: Bojan89 via iStock
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Healthcare assistants (HCAs) are increasingly performing nursing duties across NHS hospitals, despite not having received any formal training for the tasks they are being asked to carry out.

This finding comes from a recent Unison survey, which showed that 63 per cent of HCAs are regularly required to provide patient care with little help from doctors or nurses, with 74 per cent frequently expected to take on extra tasks.

HCAs are not subject to the same level of training as nursing staff, and this has left more than one-third (39 per cent) worrying that patients are not necessarily receiving the safest standard of care.

In total, over half (51 per cent) of HCAs reported that they had never been trained in dressing wounds, giving out medication or performing tasks such as changing stoma bags.

The expectation to carry out extra tasks increased over the busy winter period last year, with 57 per cent of HCAs saying they were given additional responsibilities during this period, and 41 per cent revealed they had to go above and beyond the usual limits of their role more than in the previous year.

Speaking to the Guardian about the issue, shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth stated: "The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk.

"It's totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up, while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities."

With this in mind, it is clear that HCAs would benefit from at least a basic level of nursing training, or that extra funding is needed to support more nurses across the NHS to stop them from having to carry out these additional tasks in the first place.

In the meantime, agency nurses may find themselves in higher demand in hospitals to help ease pressure on full-time nurses and HCAs.

Written by James Puckle

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