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HCAs doing nurses’ jobs due to staff shortage

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The shortage of staff is leaving HCAs to pick up The shortage of staff is leaving HCAs to pick up the slack

Nearly half of healthcare assistants say they are performing the duties of nurses without equivalent pay or training, due to a shortage of nurses, a report by Unison has found.

The report surveyed 2300 healthcare assistants across the UK working in primary and secondary care including GP practices, emergency departments and in the community.

Two in five say they have not received the training necessary to provide the care expected of them such as looking after dementia patients. Only 45% of HCAs feel the tasks they are asked to do­, such as giving patients medication, doing heart checks and inserting medical tubes, are appropriate to their experience.

‘Their responsibilities have increased massively from feeding patients to now carrying out skilled medical procedures,’ said Unison deputy head of health Sara Gorton. ‘They are essentially doing jobs previously done by nurses yet this is neither reflected in their pay nor in their career opportunities, so they’re struggling to make ends meet.’

According to the report, healthcare assistants are being treated as ‘glorified skivvies’ and often left unsupervised. Despite this more than two thirds say they are not given sufficient access to training and development to fulfil the demands of the job.

‘There is a really serious workforce crisis in the NHS, with too few nurses for the patients we have now and the patients we expect in the future. There is a workforce crisis because of previous short term decisions to reduce training places – but the NHS can’t keep borrowing against its own future to fill gaps in care,’ said Stephanie Aiken, Deputy Director of Nursing for the RCN.

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This is not rocket science. The workforce model has changed since P2000 was introduced, removing the on-the-job supervised learning that used to happen in the ward based training model. The NMC now relies on experienced nurses to support their junior colleagues without financial compensation to do so. There is also a 33% deficit in the occupational health sector, but universities are still charging experienced nurses to complete the essential practice teacher courses without which SCPHN students cannot start their training. The result? Prospective occupational health nursing students unable to start their SCPHN courses and courses closing due to lack of funding from places.
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