GMB Experts in the World of Work
Join GMB today
 Follow @GMB_union

Health Care Assistants

Thursday, April 11, 2013


The most worrying aspect of the survey is the real concern among Health Care Assistants that the greatest threats to the quality of patient care are staff shortages and targets says GMB.

GMB, the union for NHS staff, welcomed and commented on the British Journal of Health Care Assistants (HCA) Survey. See notes to editors for copy of press release issued by the British Journal of Health Care Assistants.

Rehana Azam GMB National Officer said “Since the Francis Report we have heard from many NHS Occupational Groups; Doctors, Consultants, Nurses, Managers. This survey, exclusively reporting specific feedback from Health Care Assistants and setting out some of the views of HCA specific to care, quality and outcomes, is to be welcomed.

HCA's views matter greatly as many health care assistants are on the front line doing their best to deliver good quality care to patients.

The survey highlights the extent to which Health Care Assistants are involved in patient care but also reports on their experiences and highlights that some Health Care Assistants feel they could be better supported in their working environment. The most worrying aspect of the survey highlights the real concern among HCA's that the greatest threats to the quality of patient care are staff shortages and targets.

Under this Government we have seen some of the biggest jobs cuts in the NHS and in particular job cuts from the front line. If the flow of job cuts and the cuts in services is not stemmed the pressure on existing NHS staff will just become greater. Government needs to start listening to NHS workers and help staff to deliver the best to care to patients.

GMB welcomed and recognised many of the Francis Report recommendations and the need for a strong commitment from all stakeholders. GMB is pleased that Francis identified appropriate training and skills of Health Care Assistants and this survey further reinforces the need for this to become a reality. Clear lines of distinction between nurses and health care assistants is essential if the right skills mix are to be available to deliver care to patients with a range of complex needs.

 NHS Employers have a massive role to ensure that NHS workers operate in appropriate environments where the right and appropriate skills mix are organised and available at all times as demand for services grows. Leadership and motivation of NHS and Care Staff will be crucial and minimum standards of training will be essential. 

The current agenda to dismantle, fragment and privatise the NHS is probably the single biggest risk to patient care, quality and outcomes.    So when the pressure on NHS England is probably at its greatest due to the massive restructuring, we have to ensure the new NHS is fit for purpose in delivering the best care and outcomes for patients.”


Contact: Rehana Azam GMB National Officer 07841 181656 or Gavin Davies 07930 983 376 or GMB Press Office - Rose Conroy on 07974 251823 or Steve Pryle on 07921 289880.

Notes to editors

Copy of press release from British Journal of Healthcare Assistants

EMBARGOED—until 00.01hrs, 11 April 2013

Healthcare support workers want regulation—and are prepared to pay for it,

British Journal of Healthcare Assistants (BJHCA) Survey finds Healthcare support workers overwhelmingly back the recommendations about their role made in the Robert Francis Report, according to a survey released today in the April 2013 issue of the British Journal of Healthcare Assistants (BJHCA).

The issue also includes an exclusive interview with Camilla Cavendish, who has been appointed by the Government to write a review on support workers

(available under embargo on request).


The Survey focused on support worker responses to the Francis Report, to whose recommendations they gave significant backing:

93% of 385 respondents agreed there should be a code of conduct and compulsory registration for healthcare support workers

90% agreed support staff should wear a distinctive uniform and ID badge

97% agreed there should be common standards

76% said healthcare support workers should be regulated and renamed ‘nursing assistants’

67% said they would pay an annual fee for registration, almost half of whom (43%) said they would be prepared to pay £50 per annum (nurses pay £100)


Beyond the Francis Report, respondents gave their opinion on patient care.

85% of 385 respondents described the care given to patients in their workplace as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’

47% said ‘shortage of staff’ was the number one threat to patient care; 12% said it was ‘focus on targets’; 9% spoke of ‘negative work culture’, 8% ‘financial pressures’ and 7% ‘lack of care standards’


70% of 385 respondents have worked in healthcare for more than 6 years; 20% for 20 years or more

93% had done at least one day’s training in the past year; 47% had done ‘more than 4 days’

71% were ‘healthcare assistants/healthcare support workers’; 14% were assistant practitioners (or trainee APs)

68% work in the NHS; 35% in hospital; 15% in general practice; 13% in the community; 6% in the independent sector

42% are at Band 2 and 53% at Bands 3 and 4

More than half (57%) felt they were ‘often praised’ or ‘always valued and listened to’, but 16% felt ignored, underappreciated and criticised at work

34% said ‘some days I am supported, some days not’; 28% said ‘I always get enough supervision from nurses/doctors’; 10 individuals (3%) said they were ‘always left to cope on my own’

BJHCA editor, Peter Bradley, said: ‘The survey represents the voice of the support worker, and it is a voice that comes across loud and clear. It overwhelmingly backs the relevant recommendations of the Francis Report. While the Government refuses to honour one of the main Francis proposals, support workers emphatically want regulation, and are prepared to put their money where their mouth is. The BJHCA Survey indicates that far from the ignorant and uncaring image so often attributed to them, support workers are knowledgeable, engaged and caring.’

Healthcare support workers, also known as healthcare assistants, or assistant practitioners, have been prominent in the news recently, particularly since publication of the Francis Report into the shameful events at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. But they are an under-surveyed group, with their voices rarely heard. At the end of February, monthly specialist journal BJHCA decided to sample support workers’ views in the wake of the Francis Report and there were 385 responses by the date of the first analysis, on 2 April 2013.

An executive version of the survey will be available for purchase from 15 April 2013. This will include full details of the answers to all 17 questions and their accompanying graphs/charts and an analysis by BJHCA editor, Peter Bradley. This version will carry in full all the comments made by respondents to 6 open-ended questions, a rich resource for senior management and research organisations trying to understand the sector. For example, there are 325 responses to the question, ‘What one thing would improve the quality of patient care?’, 187 comments on ‘patient care, your role and the future of healthcare’ and 231 responses on how much support workers would be prepared to pay as an annual fee for regulation.

The executive version costs £249 for pre-orders received by 15 April 2013 (£299 thereafter). If you are interested in purchasing this survey, please contact Andrew Wright on +44 (0)20 7501 6745, or email

BJHCA is the monthly peer-reviewed journal for healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners. Please visit for further information.

For press enquiries, please contact:

Peter Bradley (Editor) +44 (0)20 7501 6787 or







Share this page