To maximise support for workers’ contribution to a multidisciplinary healthcare team, they should be offered the same larning and development oppoortunities as registered professionals

2013 will be remembered as the year of hard-hitting reports and reviews in the NHS - Francis, Cavendish, Keogh and Berwick.

During a recent visit to New Zealand, a colleague and I were amazed to discover that healthcare educators thousands of miles away were taking the Francis inquiry just as seriously as we are, reflecting a growing recognition that there are probably pockets of significantly poor care in virtually every healthcare system, irrespective of country or continent.

So what must change to support the delivery of high quality, safe and compassionate care for all?

Getting it right

There is growing recognition of the vital role healthcare assistants play in delivering and supporting the care of increasing numbers of frail and vulnerable people in a diverse range of settings, and their crucial contribution to patient experience.


The challenge of ensuring that support workers have the right knowledge, skills and values to deliver person centred care is reflected in a range of policy discussions on the learning and development needs of bands 1 to 4 staff, culminating in Health Education England’s current consultation on a national strategy to develop staff in these bands.

Does the 40-60-5 formula apply in your area? This estimates that 40 per cent of the NHS workforce (support workers) are responsible for around 60 per cent of direct patient contact and yet receive around 5 per cent of the education investment. Given their important contribution to care, this does not make sound business sense.

We welcome the Cavendish review’s focus on the learning and development needs of the support workforce.

It highlights the lack of career development opportunities for talented and committed HCAs and the importance of employers supporting those with the right values, attitudes and behaviours who wish to progress to become registered nurses.

What is needed is greater access to flexible, part-time, affordable, work-based study routes for HCAs who are unable to access traditional programmes for personal, financial and/or other reasons.

‘We need greater access to flexible, part-time, affordable, work-based study routes for HCAs unable to access traditional programmes’

Furthermore, widening participation is crucial to enable “non-traditional” students to progress, succeed in their degree-level studies and achieve their career aspirations.

The Open University’s unique pre-registration nursing programme is designed to enable HCAs with employer sponsorship to become registered nurses by studying part-time and continuing to work part-time.

It reflects the university’s mission to be “open to people, places, methods and ideas”.

To maximise and value support workers’ contribution to the multidisciplinary healthcare team, they should be offered the same learning and development opportunities (funding and time) as registered professionals.

Do get in touch to discuss how the OU can help you deliver your support worker development agenda.

Dr Liz Clark is senior lecturer at the faculty of health and social care, The Open University