Patient health is being put at risk by untrained hospital staff covering the work of nurses, according to a new report.
The study, carried out by public service union, Unison, found almost a quarter of healthcare assistants (HCAs) are assigned to carry out complex duties ‘beyond the scope of their competence’, because of a shortage of qualified nursing staff.
Examples included performing heart scans, inserting tubes and measuring patients’ pulse and blood pressure, reports the Daily Mail.
Almost 40 per cent said they were not trained for tasks they were asked to do daily, such as inserting cannulas or caring for patients with dementia.
The study also found some were left alone in charge of several patients who should be given one-to-one care.
Around 2,300 HCAs were surveyed from across the NHS, including those working in GP surgeries and A&E departments.
There are approximately 400,000 healthcare assistants in England. Traditionally, the role does not require medical training, and involves tasks such as feeding patients and making beds.
Sara Gordon, deputy head of health at Unison, said: “It’s nursing on the cheap and patients ultimately suffer as a result.
“Their responsibilities have increased massively. They are essentially doing jobs previously done by nurses yet this is neither reflected in their pay nor in their career opportunities, so they’re struggling to make ends meet.”
There are currently 281,000 full-time nurses in the NHS, which is a one per cent increase from 2014, but still less than the number needed according to some.
The Department of Health told the newspaper: “Healthcare assistants are a vital part of hospitals and must be supported to deliver safe, high quality patient care – that’s why there are 11,300 more nurses on our wards since May 2010 and an extra 50,000 in training.”