Patients grateful for care from healthcare assistants
(14 September 2006)
A study of patient attitudes by a researcher from Durham University has shown that many hospital patients think healthcare assistants (HCAs) provide most of the ‘hands on’ care they receive.
The research carried out by Dr Helen Hancock, recently published in the Nursing Standard journal, was based on a small group of HCAs from a large NHS Trust. The HCAs attended a development programme at the Trust. Once completed, patients across several wards were interviewed. Dr Hancock said: “There was consensus that the HCAs were most involved in direct care with some patients saying that nurses are becoming a little divorced from patient care. Most patients felt they had more of a relationship with the HCAs and that qualified staff do not have time to talk. However, many patients could not distinguish between HCAs and nurses on the wards.” When asked if HCAs would participate in a 16-week training programme to teach them how to carry out tasks traditionally performed by nurses, the HCAs were divided. Some agreed to do the course so that patients would not have to wait for a nurse to provide the services, where as others argued that patients were entitled to trained nursing care. After the training was completed, nurses were also interviewed. Some welcomed the freedom to delegate tasks but others were anxious that they would be held accountable for HCAs’ mistakes. Dr Hancock concluded: “These findings have implications for the roles within the NHS which are constantly being developed, such as the HCA. Given the patients’ satisfaction with their care, the real issue is not about individual roles but should focus on ensuring the delivery of effective patient care. “In recognition of this, the training courses at the Trust have been reviewed and extended to improve care for patients. I hope that the opportunity for staff to be supported in the development of their roles will be rolled out across the NHS as a whole.”