Tag Archives: Healthcare

How can we make healthcare a better place for women to work? Live event

The NHS is the UK’s biggest employer, with a workforce of of 1.7 million people across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, 77% of whom are women.

While healthcare is seen as a good place for women to work, many in the sector feel there is a glass ceiling. Despite women making up more than three-quarters of all NHS staff, they are still in the minority in senior roles. Healthcare professionals have also raised concerns about whether it is possible to strike a good work-life balance.

The Guardian is hosting a discussion and networking event to consider how to make healthcare a better place for women to work.

The event will take place at the Guardian’s London offices from 6pm on Thursday 12 July. Our panel of speakers will debate, among other things:

  • Is there a glass ceiling in the NHS? If so, what is causing it?
  • What are the barriers to flexible working and why do these disproportionately affect women?
  • Are women underrepresented in any roles or specialisms? What is being done to bring women into these professions?
  • Could employers do more in terms of professional support and mentoring to ensure women develop in their careers?
  • What are the benefits to the NHS and patients in being a more representative employer at all levels?
  • Do women need to leave the NHS to fulfil ambitions in healthcare? Are there employers beyond the NHS that are able to be more flexible?

The event is aimed at healthcare professionals – men and women – and while it is free, please be aware that space is limited. If you’d like to attend, please fill in the form below. Those who have been successful will receive an email to confirm their place.

The panel

Samantha Jones, director of the new care models programme, NHS England
Dido Harding, Baroness Harding of Winscombe, chair, NHS Improvement

Further panellists and discussion chair to be announced

Programme

6pm-6.45pm: Attendee arrival, registration, refreshments, networking

6.45pm-6.50pm: Chair’s welcome

6.50pm-7.40pm: Panel discussion

7.40pm-7.55pm: Audience Q&A

7.55pm-8pm: Chair closing comments

8pm-8.45pm: Networking and mentor partnering

8.45pm: Event ends, goody bags handed out

Selling lemonade to save your mother’s life? That’s American healthcare for you | Jamie Peck

When 11-year-old Nemiah Martinez of Las Cruces, New Mexico, found out her mom needed money to help her get a kidney and pancreas transplant, she didn’t waste time feeling sorry for herself. She got off her 11-year-old behind, pulled herself up by her Dora the Explorer shoelaces, and opened a lemonade stand.

To date, she’s raised over $ 1,000 for her mom’s care by selling drinks out of her family’s garage every weekend for $ 1.50 a pop. Now, with any luck, this resourceful little girl might still have a mother by the time she graduates from high school. “I’m the lucky one,” Nemiah’s mom, Paloma, told ABC News.

ABC News portrayed Nemiah’s plight as a feelgood human interest story. One radio show called the story “heartwarming”. We should call it what it really is: a damning indictment of everything that’s wrong with America.

According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 42% of Americans name the cost of, or lack of access to, healthcare as the most urgent health problem facing our country. As of the end of 2017, 12.2% of Americans lacked any kind of health insurance, a figure that’s once again rising since hitting a record low of 10.9% in 2016.

That spike has been the sharpest for African Americans, Hispanics and low-income people, and most disastrously for the risk pool, 18-25-year-olds. Experts estimate that tens of thousands of people die each year because they don’t have insurance, a number that will balloon even further if Trump and the Republican party manage to repeal Obamacare. Meanwhile, the Republican party just passed a $ 1.5tn tax cut, 70% of which will go to the top 1%.

Neither ABC, which reported on the story, nor the family’s GoFundMe page confirms whether Martinez has health insurance, but that might not matter. As of 2016, 40 million people and counting were underinsured, struggling to afford high out-of-pocket costs. Even with insurance, her transplants and subsequent drug regimens might not be fully covered, never mind the cost of multiple trips to and from the Mayo Center, where she is seeking treatment.

How did we reach this sordid state of affairs? Well, it’s been a long journey. While many progressive reforms were passed during the New Deal, president Franklin D Roosevelt backed off of universal healthcare for fear it would be too controversial.

Then, in 1942, a tight labor market caused by war spurred businesses to compete for workers with ever higher salaries. Fearing rampant inflation, FDR signed an executive order to freeze wages. Employers began using insurance benefits as another way to attract workers. And so, a private insurance industry arose that made profits by doling out as little care to the insured as it could get away with.

Politicians have periodically floated the idea of socialized medicine ever since, and Medicare and Medicaid did begin providing healthcare to elderly and (some) low-income Americans in 1965-6. But by this point, a powerful lobby had grown up around insurers and providers that made even these programs’ passage difficult. The recession of the 1970s shifted the balance of power from workers back to capital such that no further concessions could be extracted, and the rise of supply-side economics was the final nail in the coffin … until now?

As leftwing, populist movements have surged worldwide these past few years, one demand of American progressives has been a Medicare-for-all system that guarantees healthcare to all Americans, free at point of service. While presidential candidate Hillary Clinton painted this as a ridiculous flight of fancy as recently as 2016, the political terrain has shifted – thanks in no small part to grassroots activism – such that virtually every serious contender for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination supports some version of it.

As Senator Bernie Sanders tweeted on Tuesday: “What Nemiah is doing is admirable, but an 11-year-old should not have to raise money to keep her mother alive in the wealthiest country in the world. Healthcare must be a right.”

Of course, some would argue that healthcare is a right, it’s just not being acknowledged by the powers that be. But until we actually win and enforce that right, it will remain a mere abstraction.

VIP lab tours for child patients is healthcare innovation of the year

A biomedical scientist has scooped top honours in the annual awards for therapists and health scientists for his idea of giving child patients VIP tours of the laboratories where their blood samples are analysed.

Malcolm Robinson, from Western Sussex hospitals NHS foundation trust, came up with the scheme when Harvey Buster Baldwin, then aged six, kept asking questions about the process. Robinson gave him an explanatory tour and arranged for him to have a child-size lab coat, cardboard security pass and goody bag.

Harvey lost his fight with the disease two years later, but by then other children were clamouring for the VIP touch. A charity, Harvey’s Gang, was set up and has organised laboratory tours for more than 200 youngsters in 50 NHS trusts.

Robinson, who told his story in an article for the Guardian Healthcare Professionals Network, was named overall winner of the 2018 Advancing Healthcare awards at a ceremony at Chelsea Harbour, London, as well as winner of the biomedical scientist of the year category.

Other winners of this year’s awards, for which the Guardian was media partner, included Lucy Junni and Lobke Marsden, from Leeds Teaching hospitals NHS trust, who landed the “realising potential through creativity” category for their initiative – also featured previously by the network – in customising radiotherapy masks to make them less intimidating for children.

The Guardian award for innovation in mental health went to the Hertfordshire-based May Contain Nuts theatre company, a drama group formed five years ago to help people living with mental health problems explore their issues and to improve public understanding of such problems.

Parmjit Dhanda, a former Labour MP who now chairs the Allied Health Professions Federation, representing 158,000 health workers, told the awards ceremony that allied health professionals (AHPs) held the key to better partnership working across the NHS. However, their profile as a group was so low that most people would respond with blank stares if asked about them.

“I think most politicians would also be left scratching their heads when asked about the roles of AHPs – and those of healthcare scientists as well,” Dhanda said.

Full list of winners

Overall winner and Health Services Laboratories biomedical scientist of the year – Malcolm Robinson, Western Sussex hospitals NHS trust

Chroma award for realising potential through creativity – Lucy Junni and Lobke Marsden, Leeds Teaching hospitals NHS trust

Faculty of Public Health and Public Health England award for contributions to public health –Janet Cooper, Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent partnership NHS trust

Health Education England and National Institute for Health Research award for research champions – Jackie McRae, St George’s University hospitals NHS foundation trust

Macmillan award for leadership and innovation in cancer rehabilitation – Rachel Barlow and Hannah Edwards, NHS Wales and Wales Cancer Network

Institute of Biomedical Science award for inspiring the biomedical workforce of the future – Katie Berger and Ian Davies, University hospitals of North Midlands NHS trust and Staffordshire University

Scottish government award for improving quality: measuring and demonstrating impact – Alison Peebles and Ingrid Bell, Impact Arts

Viapath award for innovation in healthcare science – Jonathan Ashmore and Cormac McGrath, NHS Highlands and Belfast health and social care trust

Welsh government award for prudent healthcare – Catherine Chin, Betsi Cadwaladr, University Health Board

NHS Employers award for outstanding achievement by an apprentice, support worker or technician working alongside an AHP or healthcare scientist – Dan Clay, North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS foundation trust

Northern Ireland award for maximising resources for success – Rachael Moses, Lancashire teaching hospitals NHS foundation trust

Scottish government award for driving improvement, delivering results – Mairiead MacLennan, Lisa Logan and Stephen McGlashan, NHS Fife

Guardian award for innovation in mental health – May Contain Nuts Theatre Company

Chamberlain Dunn Learning award for rising stars – Martha Waters, Manchester University NHS foundation trust; Jade Goddard, Derbyshire community health services NHS foundation trust; Luke Gurney, Frimley health NHS foundation trust; James Duggan, Music Therapy Works; Grace Smith, Hampshire hospitals NHS foundation trust; Richard Cubbons and Ellis Goldspink, both George Eliot hospital NHS trust; Robert Palmer, Cardiff and Vale University health board; Rachael Holmes and Jessica Beacom, both South Eastern health and social care trust; Emma Inman, Charlotte Lawson-Wright, Catherine Fitch, Christella Lucas, Caroline Swinburne, Charlie Flint, Sophie Mawhinney, Noelle Adames and Alice Nicholas, all Chroma; Catherine Blanchard and Francesca Brown, both Essex partnership University NHS foundation trust

Join the Healthcare Professionals Network to read more pieces like this. And follow us on Twitter (@GdnHealthcare) to keep up with the latest healthcare news and views

If you’re looking for a healthcare job or need to recruit staff, visit Guardian Jobs

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”

Two-thirds of NHS healthcare assistants doing nurses’ duties, union finds

Almost two-thirds of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are performing roles usually undertaken by nurses, such as giving patients drugs and dressing their wounds, in the latest illustration of the NHS’s staffing crisis.

The apparently growing trend of assistants acting as “nurse substitutes” has sparked concern that patients may receive inferior or potentially unsafe care because they do not have the same skills.

Of the 376,000 assistants in the NHS in England, 74% are taking on extra tasks, according to findings by the union Unison.

In a survey of almost 2,000 mainly hospital-based HCAs across the UK, 63% said they were providing patient care with worryingly little help from doctors and nurses, and 39% said they were not confident the patients they look after were receiving safe care.

Q&A

Does the UK have enough doctors and nurses?

The UK has fewer doctors and nurses than many other comparable countries both in Europe and worldwide. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Britain comes 24th in a league table of 34 member countries in terms of the number of doctors per capita. Greece, Austria and Norway have the most; the three countries with the fewest are Turkey, Chile and Mexico. Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, regularly points out that the NHS in England has more doctors and nurses than when the Conservatives came to power in 2010. That is true, although there are now fewer district nurses, mental health nurses and other types of health professionals.

NHS unions and health thinktanks point out that rises in NHS staff’s workloads have outstripped the increases in overall staff numbers. Hospital bosses say understaffing is now their number one problem, even ahead of lack of money and pressure to meet exacting NHS-wide performance targets. Hunt has recently acknowledged that, and Health Education England, the NHS’s staffing and training agency, last month published a workforce strategy intended to tackle the problem.

Read a full Q&A on the NHS winter crisis

“On my first day I was shown how to do tasks like taking pulses and blood pressures by another HCA,” said Nicole, an HCA in Greater Manchester and Unison member.

One healthcare worker who asked to remain anonymous said: “They said they’d never been trained properly how to do it and weren’t really sure if they were doing it properly. HCAs are doing electrocardiograms and taking bloods. That’s a lot of responsibility.”

In the survey, 51% of HCAs said they had not been properly trained to dress wounds, give out medication or change stoma bags.

“Healthcare assistants are being left to fill staffing gaps and do vital tasks without recognition or reward. It’s bad for them and bad for patients”, said Unison’s head of health, Sara Gorton. “It’s clear the pressures on them to act as nurse substitutes have increased over the winter.”

A majority of respondents (57%) said they had to perform extra tasks last winter as the NHS came under its most intense pressure ever, and 41% said they were asked to act beyond the usual limits of their roles, and without proper training more often than the previous winter.

The creeping expansion of HCAs’ roles, linked to the NHS in England’s shortfall of 40,000 nurses, risks leading to “nursing on the cheap”, the Royal College of Nursing said in response to the findings.

“As the shortage of nurses continues to bite, shifts are increasingly filled with more unregistered care staff,” said the RCN’s general secretary, Janet Davies. “Support workers play an extremely important role, but they should supplement the work of nurses, not replace them.

“It’s unfair on HCAs to expect them to deliver care they have not been trained for. It’s also unfair on patients,” she added. “Health outcomes improve with more registered nurses on duty. The government must not allow nursing on the cheap, and increasing the supply of registered nurses must be a priority.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, said: “The situation is getting worse year by year, putting patient safety at risk. It’s totally unacceptable to expect healthcare assistants to fill in, effectively acting up while denying them the training and support they deserve for taking on extra responsibilities.”

The policy director at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, Candace Imison, said the findings were worrying. She said: “We know that across the NHS, staff – from healthcare assistants to clinicians – are being stretched beyond their capacity daily as the health service grapples with staff shortages and growing numbers of sick and frail patients.”