Headlines: July 22nd, 2008

Almost half of Healthcare Assistants believe they are poorly or very poorly valued and two thirds of them have thought about leaving the NHS according to a survey published today. It comes from the largest public sector union, UNISON which is calling for “just a little respect” for the work of HCAs in caring for patients.

The study reveals that eight out of ten of the workers want regulation of their role so standards can be set and patient care outcomes improved. The same number say they have experienced a dramatic decline in staffing on their wards since last year. Almost two thirds of HCAs reported experiencing or witnessing violence or aggression in the same period and only 11 per cent of respondents felt highly valued.

The survey shows, though, that almost half of HCAs are keen to take up nurse training and that figure rises to 70 per cent younger staff. UNISON is worried that the review of training by the Nursing and Midwifery Council might end access to training for healthcare assistants and it is pointing out that many of the Assistants already have advanced care skills. It is calling for greater support and development opportunities to enable them to develop their study skills.

Gail Adams, Head of Nursing at the unions said the NHS was about caring for people and this had to include its own staff. “These are tomorrows’ healthcare professionals. Value them now, respect their role, or lose them later,” she said and added, “It is deeply worrying that, at a time of immense change in the NHS, such a high proportion of essential staff feel their job is just not valued.”

The study results are being published as UNISON stages a conference for more than 250 healthcare workers under the title “A Picture of Health – Healthcare Assistants in Tomorrow’s NHS.”