I get asked lots of questions when I am training clients. One of the most frequent questions I get asked is “what can Health Care Assistants (HCA’s) do?” and what can’t they do? Well that’s a really difficult one to answer and it’s not simple! Firstly, there are so many titles, Health Care Assistant, Nursing Assistant, Health Care Support Worker, Auxiliary, Care Worker the list goes on and on. The fact is the title is not regulated and research suggests that most Health Care Assistants and most nurses would like the role regulated. Secondly, the roles are diverse across the spectrum of titles. In my experience in primary care and general practice the HCA’s do tasks to assist the practice nursing team. For example, venepuncture, pneumococcal and influenza vaccinations, B12 injections, ear irrigation, wound care, ECG’s, spirometry and smoking cessation. The list is not exhaustive. What is important is that they are trained well and assessed as competent and work with the nursing team to provide high quality patient care. They should be supervised in practice.
Practice managers and nurses must discuss and obtain advice from medical indemnity companies to ensure that the HCA is adequately insured for the tasks they undertake. All companies vary the cover they provide.
In my opinion HCA’s are not a cheap alternative to nurses but merely an addition to the team and should be rewarded and paid at AFC equivalent band 3-4 in practices. Its essential as they progress and extend their roles that they are financially rewarded.
So as I said the answer is not simple, it’s a complex one however, one thing is certain there should be guidelines, lines of accountability and responsibility should be clear and boundaries not blurred. Job descriptions should be accurate to reflect what HCA’s do and they should be updated.