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Sunday Times journalist to lead healthcare assistant review

The Sunday Times journalist Camilla Cavendish has been asked by the government to conduct a study of healthcare assistants to ensure they have the necessary training standards, HSJ has learned.

The move comes in response to recommendations in Robert Francis QC’s Report of the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Public Inquiry that healthcare assistants should be subject to statutory regulation and receive more training.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “We want people to get the most safe, effective and compassionate care - so we need to make sure that the staff tasked with carrying out the most personal and fundamental support have the skills and values to provide this.

“Camilla Cavendish has been asked to conduct an independent study of healthcare and care assistants to ensure that they have the training and support they need to provide these most essential of services to the highest standards.”

Ms Cavendish was a contemporary of prime minister David Cameron at Oxford and chaired the chief nursing officer’s conference in Manchester in the autumn. She has previously written articles indicating support for healthcare assistant regulation.

The government is in favour of voluntary regulation and has previously commissioned Skills for Health to produce training standards and a code of conduct for the workforce.

It is not clear how the latest review will relate to this work, which is due to be published soon.

Readers' comments (14)

  • Another job for one of David’s cronies
    Surely this task would be better done by a Nurse!

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  • I wonder about the skills and expertise that Ms Cavendish has to take on this really important review. If she has them they need to be publicised so that any review has credibility. If she hasn't got them we need someone who does have them.

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  • This is bizarre. Why should a journalist lead a review like this?

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  • Re: "This is bizarre. Why should a journalist lead a review like this?" - see the first comment above - it probably tells you all you need to know!

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  • Alan Taman

    An interesting ethical question arises for Camilla if she finds out that Government provision is woefully inadequate. Does she go public with that as a story to beat her paper's competitors, as her Editor will surely be pressing her to do, or remain tight lipped as an Inquiry Chair? Loyalties, conflicting. How does one resolve that? Unless, of course, it's all about a political elite either way so ultimately it doesn't matter. Which it is.

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  • Derek Mowbray

    I have a different take on this. I don't know this journalist. However, people who chair or lead such important reviews and enquiries need to be people who are very sharp, have the strength of character to ask the very awkward question and be able to judge the authenticity of the reply. You really don't have to be a nurse to reviewing nursing or a doctor to review medical practice, but you do need to be capable of understanding what people are saying to you. Also, in selecting people to take a lead in these types of review there is a need, I think, to have an eye on the outcome. If you ask a lawyer to do a review, he or she may understand the answers to questions but will see them in lawyers terms. Ditto for grocers. A journalist is normally widely inquisitive, and will gain meaning from answers that are more broadly understood, and may well be more sensitive to influences as a whole, rather than seeking a specific form of answer.
    To me this review is pretty straight forward. Providing health services to individuals requires someone to be attentive to the individual as a whole whilst the specialists get on with whatever they have to do. Being attentive to the person as a whole is a really demanding on intelligence, emotional intelligence, perception, empathy and attentiveness. On top are skills. Being attentive to others is often really difficult, particularly as the trick is to ensure that your attentiveness is felt by the person to whom you are being attentive. Not easy. Many managers can't do it. Most clinicians can do it for a short time. They, of course, haven't applied to do a job of nursing, so no one would necessarily expect them to be able to be attentive to the whole person. But someone has to be, and nurses who do this brilliantly abound in the NHS, speed recovery with their attentiveness, and make the frightening experience of being in the hands of other professionals more palatable. Why they are paid at the lower end of the spectrum, God alone knows. Or a journalist, as they are getting closer to Godliness (aside from the odd scandal or two or three).

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  • Why have a review at all? Haven't we had enough?

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  • No mystery here. Leverson is water under the bridge. The Westminster village with SoS having form re close relationships with the Murdoch press, is resuming normal service.
    What was the selection process? Clearly in their weird world there is little difference between writing half page articles in the Times and doing a national review.

    What odds on her being an A list conservative candidate at the next election?

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  • Alan Taman

    Wish I'd said that, Anon. Actually, I think I did!

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  • Cadillac Cavendish has been the most outspoken journalist on Healthcare Assistants and their use in plugging holes in the system. It is genius to get your biggest critic to review the system. There is another important issue here too, that the Government have less control over the NHS systems than its predecessors. It has to use new mechanisms to enforce its will and cultural levers that face public concern against the system will be used more and more.

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  • Alan Taman

    Wish I'd said that, Anon. Actually, I think I did!

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  • Would they ask a journalist to lead a review of Doctors training and regulation? or do they think anyone can review HCAs!

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  • Speaking as an HCA who the hell is she to review what I do? Look at the press' semi-hysterical reaction to Leveson to judge their take on their own activities being scrutinised. And as she has already written in favour of registration, well, that's that then. And what planet is Mr Mowbray on? Cronyism rules, OK?

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  • the sooner HCA's are regulated the better. Taxi drivers are more tightly regulated than HCA'S. additionally, assistant practitioners, ot assistant, physio assistants etc should all be regulated. As a social worker I get tired of undertaking safeguarding investigations, identifying care assistants who have caused harm, they leave and pitch up at the care home or hospital down the road or they become 'personal assistants' under direct payments, becoming more hidden. no powers to stop them and a referral to ISA will be overturned on appeal by the HCA. a very difficult set of circumstances that regulation will help to address. whilst I'm sceptical of this journalist leading a review, I welcome the direction of travel.

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