Healthcare assistants 'want professional register'

By Nick Triggle
Health correspondent, BBC News

image captionHealthcare assistants are employed to do basic tasks such as feeding and washing patients

Most healthcare assistants in the UK want to see tougher regulation of the profession, a survey suggests.

A British Journal of Healthcare Assistants poll of 385 staff found 93% backed compulsory registration - with many prepared to pay for it.

It would mean healthcare assistants would have to be on a formal register to work, just as nurses have to be.

The move was recommended in England by the Stafford Hospital inquiry, but rejected by ministers last month.

They argued that registering the thousands of healthcare assistants working in the NHS and private sector to do basic tasks such as feeding and washing patients would be too burdensome bureaucratically to introduce for the 1m staff working across the public and private sectors.

Ministers also said it would be unfair to ask lowly paid staff to pay annual fees to support the system.

Instead they proposed a code of conduct and minimum training standards, similar to the scheme that has already been introduced in Scotland.

'Strength of feeling'

But this online poll of readers suggests the concern about finances was not justified.

A total of 67% of healthcare assistants drawn from hospitals, the community and care homes said they would be willing to pay an annual fee for registration.

The survey also showed healthcare assistants were concerned about staff shortages and the focus on targets.

Journal editor Peter Bradley said: "While the government refuses to honour one of the main inquiry proposals, support workers emphatically want regulation and are prepared to put their money where their mouth is."

Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, which represents healthcare assistants, said: "It is clear that healthcare assistants themselves take delivering safe care to patients very seriously."

Gail Adams, of Unison, said the "strength of feeling" on the issue was clear.

"Regulation would also mean that every healthcare assistant would get a minimum level of training," she added.

But a Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Setting up a register would be a bureaucratic tick-box exercise.

"We are tackling this issue at its root, focusing on making sure healthcare support workers have the right training, values, support and leadership to provide the high-quality care that patients deserve."

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