Healthcare Assistants taking on additional roles often without training

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3rd May 2018 14:42 - Health

Healthcare Assistants taking on additional roles often without training: A survey of healthcare assistants (HCAs) working in the NHS has revealed two thirds of workers are carrying out tasks that are usually the responsibility of nurses or other staff members, often without adequate training or proper supervision. 
 
The research by public service union, Unison, polled 2,000 HCAs working in the NHS throughout the UK and found many had undertaken tasks such as taking patients’ blood pressure, dressing wounds and giving drugs. 
 
Almost three quarters (74%) surveyed said they have had to carry out additional tasks when at work – because of staff shortages, with more than half (51%) disclosing they had not had any further training to undertake tasks such as giving out medication and changing stoma bags. 
 
Follow up to earlier Unison survey
 
The research was ordered to follow up on a 2016 survey by Unison to ‘return to some of the key issues identified’ to gain an accurate picture of working in the NHS from the point of view of frontline staff. 
 
A lack of support and inadequate training 
 
Two thirds (63%) of respondents said the support they had from doctors and nurses when left to care for patients was not adequate, while 39 per cent said they are do not feel confident about the safety of patients they are tasked with looking after. 
 
The conditions, according to respondents, have been worse over the last winter than the previous year with over half (57%) saying they have had picked up more work this year because of nursing or clinical staff shortages. 
 
Compared to last year, 41 per cent of HCAs have also been asked to carry out tasks without being first provided with adequate training, while 37% noted the frequency of having to carry out tasks unsupervised had increased. 
 
Nicole, a HCA in Manchester and a case study from the Unison study, said: “On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressure by another HCA. They said they’d never been properly trained how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing ECGs and taking bloods, that’s a lot of responsibility.”
 
UNISON head of health Sara Gorton said: “Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients.
 
“It is important these staff receive training for all the extra responsibilities they’re expected to take on.
 
“It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter. The Government needs to show they value healthcare assistants by investing in their training.”


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