Healthcare assistants will not face statutory regulation, the government has announced, but they will be subject to national minimum training and a code of conduct.

Responding to the public inquiry into the failure at the Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed nurses will be required to work for a year as healthcare assistants in order to get funding for their nursing degrees.

This will be piloted, with the possiblity of rolling it out across the NHS, and could be extended to other professions including doctors.

Robert Francis had recommended statutory registration of HCAs, but this has been rejected.

The new chief inspector of hospitals will be responsible for ensuring “unsuitable” healthcare assistants are barred from working in hospitals under the Home Office’s barring regime.

The government has rejected the suggestion for a specialist older person’s nurse and instead said it will strengthen the focus on older people throughout nursing care.

Providers will be given action plans, under the Compassion in Practice nursing strategy, to give nurse ward managers the time to meet their supervisory and leadership role.

A statutory duty of candour, including a criminal sanction, will be applied to healthcare organisations requiring them to be open with patients and relatives if they believe treatment or care has caused death or serious injury.

Mr Hunt said the government had not ruled out extending a legal duty of candour to NHS workers below board level and would consider this after the review by patient safety expert Don Berwick which is due to report before the summer.

Mr Hunt said today a statutory duty of candour with criminal sanctions could “create a culture of fear” and may have unintended consequences.

He also announced nurses would face the prospect of an annual revalidation scheme, similar to that imposed on doctors, to ensure their skills are up to date and they are fit to practise.

The Department of Health has said revalidation for nurses will only be introduced once the Nursing and Midwifery Council “turns around its current poor performance.”

All civil servants working for the Department of Health will have “sustained and meaningful experience of the frontline” within four years to “reconnect” them NHS staff and patients, Mr Hunt said.

The government has also said it will look to “overhaul radically” the laws surrounding the General Medical Council and Nursing and Midwifery Council to improve the regulation of nurses and doctors.

It said it will seek to introduce new legislation to bring professional regulation together under one Act of Parliament to enable “faster and more proactive action on individual professional failings.”