Patients could be at risk from unregulated ‘cheap’ healthcare workers


Patients could be at risk from unregulated ‘cheap’ healthcare workers

Patients could be left at risk from a growing number of unqualified and unregulated healthcare workers, it has been claimed.

By Martin Beckford, Health Correspondent 7:00AM BST 20 Apr 2011

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There are at least 150,000 healthcare assistants working in hospitals and care homes, often carrying out important roles such as washing and feeding patients, and more are being employed as a cheap alternative to more experienced clinical staff.

But unlike doctors, nurses and midwives, there are no training requirements for healthcare assistants and support staff and no watchdog to discipline those that break rules, meaning that those who are sacked can simply move to another employer.

A report commissioned by Labour said last year that to there must be some form of regulation for healthcare assistants and support workers in order to “protect the public and ensure high quality care”, and recommended that the Government “urgently” look into the matter.

But in its long-awaited response to the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery, published quietly last week, the Department of Health ruled out any such move.

It said: “The Government does not believe that the extension of statutory regulation to all workers in the health sector across the UK and the social care sector would be a proportionate response and that the emphasis should be on employers of unregulated workers to take responsibility for the quality of services provided.”

Its refusal to call for regulation of healthcare assistants has been strongly criticised by the Patients Association.

The pressure group’s chief executive, Katherine Murphy, said: “We are extremely disappointed that the Government has decided that it isn’t ‘proportionate’ to ensure healthcare staff caring for some of the most vulnerable members of society are publicly accountable.

“There is absolutely no sense in regulating nurses but saying you don’t need to regulate healthcare assistants.

“With pressures on budgets there is the real danger that Trusts will fire nurses, hire cheaper unregulated healthcare assistants and leave people being cared for without any national safeguards or accountability.

“The bottom line is that unqualified, unregulated healthcare assistants more and more are giving nursing care for patients in hospital and in the community and the government had decided not to act to try and make patients safer.”

The leading nursing union, the Royal College of Nursing, has long called for the regulation of healthcare assistants and mandatory training.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council, the nursing standards watchdog, will discuss next month whether or not to start a full consultation on extending its scope to cover less qualified healthcare workers.

A spokesman said: “The lack of regulation of healthcare support workers is an area of obvious concern for the NMC’s governing Council. They will be debating this issue, along with other issues in the government’s response to the Commission on nursing and midwifery, at their next full meeting on 26 May.”

One Response to Patients could be at risk from unregulated ‘cheap’ healthcare workers

  1. kenm says:

    Many wards in hospitals are being run with just one qualified nurse and the rest are support workers.

    For the minister to say the responsibility for care workers rests with the employers is outrageous–they are only interested in profit and employ at the cheapest rates possible.

    The government inspections already turn a blind eye to terrible standards of care, if they are cheap dumping grounds for the sick, disabled and elderly.

    The standard of care in this country is one step away from the nazi gas chambers, it is having the same results.

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