Regulation of healthcare assistants urged ‘in interests of patient safety’

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Healthcare assistants should be independently regulated “in the interests of patient safety and care quality”, a new report says.

The workers who support doctors and nurses in the health service should be properly regulated, according to the report by the Willis Commission on Nursing Education which is also calling for healthcare assistants to be trained to a minimum of NVQ Level 3.

Last year, there were 53,140 healthcare assistants employed in England, accounting for four per cent of the workforce, but the report says there is “inconsistent” use of the job title and they should have clearly defined roles and should be supervised by graduate nurses.

Lord Willis, chair of the commission, also said the move to make nursing an all-graduate profession is “not simply desirable, but essential”.

But NHS Employers Director Dean Royles questioned the need for regulation of healthcare assistants. “I recognise the call to regulate healthcare assistants, but I am not sure what problem mandatory regulation is trying to fix?

“You can’t regulate for a smile and comforting words when dignity is required: regulation does not guarantee compassion.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Public confidence is really important. However, in the case of healthcare assistants there is no evidence that compulsory regulation would lead to higher standards.

“Regulation does not, in itself, change culture and is no substitute for proper performance management, good leadership and day-to-day high quality patient care.”