WORKFORCE: Public minutes from a Gloucestershire Hospitals Foundation Trust board meeting suggested the trust intends to recruit healthcare assistants to cover gaps in its qualified nursing rotas.

Minutes presented to the trust board this month make reference to the recruitment of HCAs saying: “The trust is to employ between 70 and 100 healthcare assistants to cover some of the gaps in nurses.”

A trust spokeswoman told HSJ the minutes were “open to interpretation” and said it was committed to a full establishment of both nurses and HCAs.

Recent research has shown an association between increased numbers of HCAs and an increase in patient mortality and poorer outcomes.

The national shortage of nurses has forced many trusts to seek nurses from overseas including Gloucester Hospitals FT which has launched a bid to recruit up to 40 overseas nurses who need support to get NMC registration.

It has previously recruited nurses from Portugal as part of efforts to plug gaps in its rotas.

The spokeswoman said the trust board was “absolutely committed to a full establishment of registered general nurses and HCAs. The minute as reported in our board paper should not be interpreted as meaning that these HCAs will be substituting or replacing RGNs on our wards. Instead, these HCAs will be in addition to our nursing workforce, and will be supporting the nursing teams in caring for our patients.”

She added: “Our HCAs do an incredible job and are a valuable part of our workforce. However, we recognise the different level of skill sets required in each role and the importance of that blend in ensuring high quality patient care is strengthened on our wards.”