Review offers once-in-a-generation opportunity for patients and healthcare staff

UNISON today welcomed recommendations in the Cavendish Review into the future role of healthcare assistants and care workers – including a universal system of training for HCAs ­- calling the review a “once-in-a-generation opportunity”.

At the same time, the union reiterated its belief that proper training needed to be accompanied by appropriate staffing levels, a combination that remained the “successful key to quality patient care”.

Journalist Camilla Cavendish was asked to head the independent review when serious failings in care were discovered after the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust scandal.

Many of her recommendations are in line with what healthcare assistants, care workers and UNISON itself have been campaigning for over many years.

One of those recommendations is for homecare workers to have a statutory right to be paid for time spent travelling between clients.

Describing healthcare assistants as “the backbone of the NHS,” UNISON head of health Christina McAnea commented: “The Cavendish Review is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make fundamental changes for the good of patients and staff.

“Common training standards across health and social care are long overdue, and welcome. In some hospitals HCAs are highly trained and respected, but in other settings they have been treated as cheap labour.  

“We want a commitment from the government that training will be properly funded and HCAs and care workers are given the paid time they need to successfully complete the new certificate of fundamental care.  

“HCAs have already proved their commitment and loyalty on the wards and some will welcome the opportunity to progress into nursing,” Ms McAnea added. “Again, measures must be taken to ensure that they are supported in this aim – and that means seconding and helping staff to take on and complete their course.

“Introducing the title of nursing assistant after further training is a recognition of the skilled role that many play. However, there is a lot of confusion felt by patients as to who they should turn to for help. The new title must come in and the plethora of old job titles done away with, to dispel that confusion.”

She said that for social care workers the report would be a welcome recognition of the value of their work.

“UNISON’s Time to Care report and Ethical Care Charter have demonstrated that paying care workers sub-minimum wage levels and keeping them on zero hours contracts means poor care for people who must rely on it for any quality of life.

“The government must provide funding to stem the crisis in care to give the review’s recommendations any chance of being implemented.”

The union will be studying the report in more detail and will discuss the findings with healthcare assistant and social care members.

Meanwhile, Ms McAnea referred to UNISON’s Be Safe campaign, calling for legislation to ensure minimum nurse to patient ratios of one to four, for every department across the health service.

“The successful key to quality patient care is always having the right number of staff in place, with the correct skills, at the right time,” she said. “If these key issues are not also met, staff will always struggle to deliver compassionate care, no matter how well trained they are.”

UNISON in healthcare

Key issue: Be Safe

Key issue: Fighting cuts and privatisation in the NHS

Key issue: Influencing the NHS in England

Document: Ethical Care Charter [PDF]