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The RCN believes all health care assistants (HCAs) and assistant practitioners (APs) should be regulated in the interests of public safety and is committed to supporting steps towards mandatory regulation. This has been a major policy position for the RCN for many years and campaigning for regulation continues to be a priority for the organisation going forward.
What happens now?
The Department of Health commissioned Skills for Health and Skills for Care, in consultation with unions, employers, support workers, regulators and education providers, to develop national minimum training standards and a code of conduct for health care support workers reporting to registered nurses, midwives and adult social care workers in England, with the expectation that they will be used as the basis for entry to any voluntary register(s).
A great deal of information about voluntary registers is available online from the Professional Standards Authority website www.chre.org.uk
The RCN continues to call for a system of statutory regulation for all HCSWs, and in December 2012 produced the policy briefing, The Weaknesses of Voluntary Regulation for Health Care Support Workers (PDF 80KB), setting out the pitfalls of a regulatory system which allows for an unacceptable level of risk to patient safety.
HCSW regulation and the Public Inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust
The independent inquiry (February 2013) conducted by Robert Francis QC into the care provided at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust has implications for HCAs and APs. Francis makes several recommendations on themes including identity, registration, code of conduct and training standards. You can read more about this and the work that the RCN has done and is doing on these issues on our This is Nursing site. The pages contain a useful section with frequently asked questions about the wider report.
We will continue to call for mandatory regulation of support workers as we wait to hear how these recommendations will be considered going forward.
RCN work on regulation
The RCN has published various policy papers setting out its position on regulation. See the RCN work on regulation section for more information and details of member research about the perceived benefits of regulating health care assistants.
If you would like to contribute your own views on the issue please contact email@example.com
The regulation agenda forms an important part of the RCN’s This is Nursing initiative, along with training and education to ensure HCAs and APs are competent for their roles. Find out more about This is Nursing here.
Promoting good employment practice
In 2011 assurance codes have been developed in Scotland and Wales to promote high quality care for patients and good standards of practice for all staff. These codes can be accessed as examples of good practice wherever in the UK you are employed. Many organisations have developed similar codes and guidelines.
Scotland have developed the health care support workers toolkit which includes a code of conduct for health care support workers and a code of practice for employers in Scotland. Mandatory induction standards have also been set up and they too are available on the health care support workers toolkit.
A code of practice (PDF 533KB) has been developed for NHS Wales employers as well as a code of conduct for health care support workers (PDF 692KB). Principles of induction standards for health care support workers (PDF 90KB) have also been produced.
In Northern Ireland the health and social care services are integrated. The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) registers and inspects a wide range of services delivered by HSC bodies and independent sector providers. There is no mandatory regulatory process for individual support workers. However, the Northern Ireland Social Care Council is now regulating all social care assistants, including those working within nursing homes. See more information