BBC News

Code of conduct to be drafted for care workers

By Alison Holt
Social Affairs Correspondent, BBC News

media captionSecret filming by one family revealed a poor standard of care for a relative

A code of conduct and minimum standards of training is to be drawn up for health care assistants and care workers who look after the elderly in England.

The government said the new standards are likely to focus on communication, confidentiality, nutrition and hydration amongst other things.

The announcement follows growing concerns about the training and quality of care provided by some care workers.

They are often poorly paid whilst doing a difficult and demanding job.

It is cases like that of Carol-Anne Norman that have caused concern.

She and her sister set up a camera to monitor the care their 85-year-old father was being given. He has dementia.

They say the closed-circuit television pictures showed a number of care workers who didn't appear to know what they were doing.

One worker was filmed wetting his flannel and toothbrush, wiping the basin with a towel to wet it then sprinkling talcum powder on the floor.

In the notes it said their father had had a full wash, but their father was nowhere in sight. That worker has been suspended.

Mrs Norman was shocked.

She said: "It was just not care and, at times, I would call it abuse and they've done it because my father can't protect himself or speak for himself."

'More safeguards'

The local government ombudsman for England, Dr Jane Martin, is seeing a steady stream of cases that underline why a code of conduct is needed.

Dr Martin can investigate what local authorities do, but believes there's a gap in the system when it comes to care workers.

"It seems to me, if there were more safeguards around the qualification or perhaps the registration of care assistants, that would give me greater assurance that they were being properly vetted and employed to do a job that we had more confidence in."

It is likely to be next September before details of the code and the training are published and a voluntary register of care workers is likely to be set up in 2013.

Many will see it as a step in the right direction, but some will feel it doesn't go far enough.

Nurses in particular have been pressing for a compulsory register for health care assistants. It is seen as a way to raise standards.

In February, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley ruled out compulsory registration for care workers and scrapped the last government's plans for a register.

Mr Lansley reportedly said that a compulsory system couldn't be justified in the current economic climate.

He maintained voluntary registration could improve standards and quality of care without imposing the costs of mandatory regulation.

Codes of practice have already been developed for health support workers in Scotland and Wales.

More on this story

  • 'Shameful' elderly care detailed

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.