Untrained Healthcare Assistants Putting Patients At Risk

Healthcare Assistants Working Without Training Or Supervision To Support NHS Demand

25.03.2015

Patients are being put at risk because some healthcare assistants are being required to work without proper training or supervision, a BBC investigation has revealed.

The investigation found that hospital support workers were regularly left alone on wards, and were often asked to "act up" and carry out tasks that should be performed by doctors or nurses, such as taking blood samples and inserting IV drips.

National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines say healthcare assistants should work under professional supervision. The Royal College of Nursing blamed the problems on an overwhelming lack of trained nurses.

Patients are sometimes put at risk because assistants feel pressure to carry out procedures they have not been trained for, such as lifting patients without lifting training. One healthcare assistant commented that medication has also been given to the wrong patients as a result.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said it was: "Never acceptable for unqualified staff to be asked to undertake any task for which they are not trained or supervised.

"Staff who raise concerns about patient safety help protect patients, and they have the government's strong support."

Expert Opinion
This investigation has raised very serious concerns regarding not only the tasks that healthcare assistants are asked to carry out, but also whether they have had the appropriate training or supervision when undertaking such jobs.

"Safety should always be the priority for the NHS, so it is clearly worrying that the BBC has identified instances when efforts to protect patients from risks may have been undermined.

"It is vital that the Government and the NHS work together to fully investigate these concerns, with the ultimate aim of ensuring that staff are always qualified and able to undertake the work they are asked to do."
Guy Forster, Partner