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HCA voluntary regulation is 'no cure'

The Shadow Health Minister has warned of the 'juggernaught' facing the government on healthcare assistant regulation.

Speaking in the House of Lords yesterday (24 October), Health Minister Lord Howe told peers the government has included a provision in the Health and Social Care Bill to enable the establishment of an accredited assured voluntary registration.

The voluntary scheme will build on existing safeguards and include the setting of national standards for HCA training, their conduct and competencies.

He has moved away from implementing a statutory regulatory framework for HCAs despite claims from peers that it is required to "reassure" patients.

"There is no blanket prescription in this area," said Lord Howe.

"One has to look at the competencies of individual nurses."

He said it must be taken into account that people in healthcare professions are currently subject to numerous tiers of regulation.

The onus has also been placed on employers to ensure no HCA carries out their duties unsupervised and unregulated - this would not change "one jot" under statutory regulation, said Lord Howe.

Under the plans, it was confirmed nurses that have previously been struck off could continue to work for the NHS under a different capacity.

If a nurse was struck off for mis-prescribing drugs but has proven efficiencies bathing patients for example, depending on the circumstances and with the right supervision, they should be able to work in a HCA capacity, Lord Howe argues.

Shadow Health Minister, Baroness Thornton, argued voluntary regulation is "no cure" and deemed it "unsatisfactory" that the new rules would allow there to be a chance some patients would never know that a nurse they are in contact with is a struck off nurse.

Nursing and Midwifery Council

We asked you whether you think HCA voluntary regulation is enough to reassure patients. Your comments (terms and conditions apply)

"No i do not and the level of supervision taking place on the wards and in the community is inconsistent and a cause for concern. I have recently facilitated some focus groups exploring how valued and supported HCAs feel in the job and the general feedback is that they are left to just get on with it...... It is difficult to find evidence of how HCAs level of competence is measured and monitored" - Tracy Lindsay, London