Healthcare assistants call for better training

UNISON Healthcare Assistants have called on Health Education England (HEE) to replace online courses with practical training as part of the new statutory certificate of care. Such courses should cover patient safety, dignity, infection control, hygiene and nutrition.  

The 200 delegates to UNISON’s HCA conference meeting this week in Liverpool, were able to put forward their points of view in a session with HEE representatives.  They called for continual assessment, pathways to attaining qualifications such as foundation degrees and accreditation for the many who already have NVQs.  

Access to robust mentoring and buddying schemes as a method to gain knowledge and transferrable skills across wards and departments should also be a key element of the certificate. 

57% of the HCAs attending the conference revealed they have had no access to professional development outside of mandatory training in the past year. 29% said there is no funding in their organisation to undertake training, and almost 50% said junior staff do not receive equal access to training. 43% of delegates said they would like the opportunity to develop in other roles, including promotion. 

The newly created HEE, which has a budget of £4.9 billion, is developing a certificate of fundamental care as recommended by Camilla Cavendish in her review of regulation and training in the sector earlier this year. 

Gail Adams, UNISON’s Head of Nursing, said:

“Common training standards across health and social care are long overdue. In some hospitals HCAs are highly trained and respected but in other settings they are treated as cheap labour. 
“The most effective way of deciding what this certificate will include is to consult those people who are working in the sector day to day, so we welcome the opportunity to feed our ideas into this framework.
“Training must be properly funded and HCAs and care workers given the paid time they need to successfully complete the new certificate of fundamental care.”
Note for editors:  

HEE is developing in-service training for staff working in bands 1-4 of the Agenda for Change pay framework. It plans to roll out national minimum training standards for all workers, allowing staff in bands 1-4 the opportunity to pursue careers as doctors or nurses. 

The certificate is designed to provide consistent minimum training standards and improve the status of support workers. It will provide evidence that HCAs have the knowledge and skills to provide patients with high quality care and compassion.

Bands 1-4 make up 40% of NHS staff and are responsible for 60% of direct patient contact, but historically have only received about 5% of the training and support budget. Those on Bands 1-4 earn between £14,000 and £22,000 per year.