This site is intended for healthcare professionals only

HCAs doing nurses’ jobs due to staff shortage

Written by: | Published:

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.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or tweet your views to @IndyNurseMag

This material is protected by MA Healthcare Ltd copyright.
See Terms and Conditions.


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.
Posted by: ,

Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Change the CAPTCHA codeSpeak the CAPTCHA code

Most read articles from Practice Nursing Journal

Practice Nursing Journal latest issue and most read articles.

Click here to read a selection of free to access articles from Practice Nursing Journal


Sign up to the newsletter


Independent Nurse is the professional resource for primary care and community nurses, providing clinical articles for practice nurses and prescribers.


Subscribe to our newsletter and stay up to date with the latest nursing news.

Stay Connected

Stay social with Independent Nurse by following us on Twitter, liking us on Facebook or connecting on LinkedIn.


Need access to some of our older articles? You can view our archive, or alternatively contact us.

Contact Us

MA Healthcare Ltd.
St Jude's Church, Dulwich Road
London, SE24 0PB

Tel: +44 (0)20 7738 5454
Registered in England and Wales No. 01878373

Meet the team


Find out how to contribute to Independent Nurse here.