From 1 April, all newly qualified HCAs will be required to complete a Care Certificate within 12 weeks of being employed, under new plans announced by the DH.
The Care Certificate is designed to ensure that HCAs have demonstrated competency and skills in 15 areas, including communication, safeguarding, infection control, mental health awareness, and caring with privacy and dignity.
The Care Certificate was created as a result of recommendations in the Cavendish Review, which investigated HCAs and support workers and was published after the Francis Inquiry into the failings that caused the Midstaffs care scandal. The CQC has said that whether support workers have a Care Certificate may factor into inspections.
Howard Catton, an RCN director who was involved in developing the certificate, said: '[The RCN is] very supportive of the Care Certificate. We have called for improvements to the training of support workers. This is a significant step forward.'
Questioning how the certificate would be achieved, Chrissy Cowan, an associate practice educator and support worker at Portsmouth Hospitals Trust, said: 'The assessment of the standard has to test knowledge and understanding, and performance in practice. It is not enough to know it, they have to be assessed in their workplace. Most of the standards would have to be assessed in practice, but there are some, for example basic life support, which would have to be done in simulation.'
The DH has also advised that the scheme could be expanded to NHS funded student nurses in 2016.
Mr Catton added: 'The Care Certificate for student nurses is a new announcement. While it could be helpful, I think that we need to have a consultation on how it will work before it is introduced.'