Working as a health care assistant in the UK
The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is the voice of nursing across the UK and the largest professional union of nursing staff in the world with more than 400,000 members.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) is the regulatory body and competent authority for the register of nurses, midwives and specialist community public health nurses. As yet, health care assistants (HCAs) are not regulated.
Membership of the RCN
Nurses qualified outside of the UK working as health care assistants, who are not and have never been registered with the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), can join the RCN at a concessionary rate for the first year. Payments can be made on a monthly basis. Current RCN membership rates are available in RCN membership rates and categories.
To join the RCN, telephone RCN Direct, our telephone information advice service, open seven days a week between 8.30am to 8.30pm, on 0345 772 6100. If you are calling from outside the UK telephone + 44 (0) 20 7647 3456 or apply in Join the RCN.
Registered nurses and midwives who do not meet NMC requirements
If you are an overseas nurse who cannot register to work as a registered nurse or midwife and are currently living in the UK, the only method of upgrading overseas nursing qualifications to the European first level nurse criteria is by undertaking a pre-registration nursing or midwifery programme at a university.
Some of the nursing or midwifery pre registration programme may be credited on the basis of prior experience and learning, that is by going through a process of Accreditation of Prior Experience and Learning (APEL).
Every university should have a system in place to help you in the APEL process. This option is only available to people living in the UK for over three years.
If you would like to work as a health care assistant whether or not you are qualified as a nurse, the following information will be useful for you.
HCAs do not need to hold any specific qualifications or have a scientific background. However, at the discretion of the employer, individuals may need to pass a medical.
Because of the amount of close contact with vulnerable patients of all ages, a criminal records check is also required full details can be found on the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) website. In November 2010 it will be mandatory for all health care assistants to be registered with the Independent Safeguarding Authority (ISA).
HCAs can work within hospital or community care settings under the guidance and delegation of a registered health care professional and are employed by the NHS, private hospitals, nursing homes and private agencies. HCAs are also known as nursing auxiliaries, nursing assistants and support workers.
The role can vary depending on the area in which the person is employed. The duties that are expected from a new HCA include: assisting with patients’ overall comfort, washing, dressing and feeding patients and monitoring patients’ conditions by taking temperatures, blood pressure and pulse.
Many HCAs are trained in more complex clinical tasks such as venepuncture, performing electrocardiograms (ECGs), catheterisation and many more. They must always work within protocols and have their work delegated to them by a registered practitioner. Full details can be found on the NHS website.
Once HCAs have started work, they can study for qualifications such as the NVQ in Health or Health and Social Care (see below). These qualifications will allow employees to learn more about patient care. Once they have been completed, individuals are enabled to perform tasks which require a greater level of responsibility.
Many HCAs work on a shift basis. Flexible and part time work is available and may include nights and weekends.
Training and Development
HCAs may have the opportunity to obtain an NVQ qualification (or similar) in care. An NVQ level three will meet the minimum requirements for entry into nurse training or working as an assistant practitioner.
Obtaining an NVQ level two can lead to the person having more responsibility in terms of the role they are fulfilling, as can attending accredited training sessions in the workplace, which may vary from employer to employer.
If you are currently living abroad you must check your individual immigration requirements before coming to the UK.
The RCN offers career advice and confidential support to RCN members Tel: +44 (0) 345 408 4391 or email email@example.com Tanis Hand is the RCN’s HCA Adviser and would be happy to assist with any queries on working as a HCA in the UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Nursing Standard (Subscriptions)
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