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Code of conduct to bring 'clarity' to HCA role

A code of conduct and minimum training standards are to be developed for healthcare assistants in England to bring "clarity" to the role.

Skills for Health and Skills for Care will lead the project, focusing on areas such as communication, confidentiality, nutrition and hydration, and basic observations.

They will report back to the Department of Health in September next year, where the findings will help establish a voluntary register for HCAs and adult social care workers in England.

"Employers must always take responsibility and be accountable for the staff they employ," Health Secretary Andrew Lansley told delegates at the NHS Employers conference in Liverpool.

"But we recognise that more can be done to support employers in this and a code of conduct and clear minimum training standards will provide important clarity in this area."

The training aims to help nurses know which tasks they can "reasonably delegate" and bring clarity to HCAs carrying out more advanced tasks.

"This new right to training and support for healthcare assistants is a welcome step in the right direction - for staff and for patients," said Gail Adams, Head of Nursing at Unison.

"A HCA's access and right to training and development can be patchy, and their job roles and responsibilities can be unclear. Bringing some consistency will help support the entire health team to give patients the best possible care."

Skills for Health

Do you think a code of conduct and voluntary training is enough keep a grip on HCAs?

Your comments (terms and conditions apply)

“I think once a voluntary code of conduct has been established HCAs and employers will want to work within the framework. When the CPHVA developed the Community Nursery Nurses Voluntary code of conduct it was welcomed and adopted by many staff, managers and CNN's.” - Thelma Sackman, Bucks


"It is essential that HCAs have a good standard of training in all areas of care, communication and conduct." - Jayne Austin, Hertfordshire


"Wanting to advance my own training and development, I completed 4 years on the nursing program and qualified in Sept this year. I must say, I found it difficult at times to separate my two roles, student nurse and HCA. I also found it difficult to delegate care at times on management and placements, as some HCAs do carry out observations and some don't. Responsibilities are at times blurred for HCAs, as different areas expect different skills. I feel there needs to be clear and defined boundaries for HCAs, especially for those who have advanced training and want to develop more; however I feel pay banding plays a role in individual decisions to carry responsibilities within some HCA roles. There needs to be clear direction from management in each area of the duties that are expected, and training made available to complete these duties; this way managers are aware of the skill mix within their team, and who can do what." - Carolyn Locke, Bangor


"Probably not but it's a step in the right direction!" - Julie, Stockport


"I have done a year of training for a professional certificate in mental health at university, but I still don't get any recognition for it." - Anona Bradbury, Huddersfield


"Not sure how this can be monitored and how employers are to be held to account in providing the necessary training for these roles. Why a voluntary register? When healthcare support workers are in support of nursing care then it is the registered nurse who is accountable. However, a number of support workers are carrying out technical roles that are not supervised by registered nurses. Again how can employers be held to account in terms of these delegated tasks?" - Rowena Myles, Wales


"A code of conduct would bring a much needed sense of professionalism to the role of HCAs. However, the 'grip' on HCAs comes from robust and proactive management from line managers and CQC in upholding standards of excellence for person centred care. Training to deliver such standards can never be voluntary; it has to be mandatory to ensure continuity across all areas of care." - Mandy Chadwick, Birmingham


"No, voluntary will be insufficient. There should be statutory and mandatory training for HCA's and Nursing Auxilliaries. In addition, this should be properly related to posts and grades and be utilised to enable career advancement." - Geraldine Lees, Nottingham