Every potential student nurse to face aptitude test
Every potential student nurse or qualified healthcare worker entering training will in future be interviewed and tested to make sure they have the right values and skills to provide good care, HSJ can reveal.
The plans are being drawn up by Health Education England in response to Robert Francis QC’s report into care failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust. HEE is the national body set up in June last year to ensure high quality NHS education, training, and workforce development.
Its chief executive Ian Cumming told HSJ he accepted that testing every course applicant would pose a challenge.
“It’s not something that can happen overnight but I want to see anyone who is entering training – whether it be for nursing, medical or whatever it may be – to show they have the right skills to work in healthcare,” he said.
“If people can’t demonstrate the right values and behaviours they should not get jobs in our NHS. It is as simple as that.”
Professor Cumming said there were a number of ways to test applicants and that HEE would not seek “dictate” to universities which method to use.
But he said HEE would work with NHS Employers and others to develop a “series of tools” to test aptitude and behaviours – suggesting universities will be encouraged to use a set of standard national tests.
Mr Francis’ report recommended the widespread adoption of aptitude tests for qualified staff seeking employment in the NHS. They are already used by some NHS organisations, especially in the mental health sector.
The report also said students should be barred from nursing courses unless they had spent a minimum of three months working on the direct care of patients under the supervision of a registered nurse.
In addition, it urged the Nursing and Midwifery Council to introduce a system of revalidation for nurses similar to that launched for doctors in December by the General Medical Council.
The nursing regulator already has plans to bring in revalidation by 2015. But the report suggested the NMC should lead on developing an annual appraisal system to be implemented before the full system of revalidation is implemented.
Mr Francis suggested the annual performance appraisal – in which nurses have to show evidence of learning and skills in key areas – should be signed off by senior nurses and include feedback from patients and families.
One of the largest areas of workforce change proposed by the report is the regulation of healthcare assistants by the NMC.
Mr Francis told HSJ it was vital to protect the public that an HCA register was created and that staff be barred from providing care unless they were included on the list. He also backed the creation of a national code of conduct for HCAs, and consistent training and standards – both of which are already under development.
But the government was lukewarm last week in its response to the idea of mandatory HCA regulation and has resisted similar calls in the past. The NMC also said there were difficulties with implementing the idea.
NMC chief executive Jackie Smith said it was unclear how many HCAs there were and that regulation would require a change in the law. She said: “The regulation of HCAs is for the government. We need to consider the recommendation and we can’t do that in isolation.”
Mr Francis’s report also called on the government to “consider urgently” the introduction of a common “requirement of proficiency in communication in the English language” for healthcare staff.