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Nurse leaders: healthcare support workers cannot replace nurses

NHS England has made 35,000 job offers to healthcare support workers this year, but critics warn there is still a need for more registered nurses on top of this

NHS England has made 35,000 job offers to healthcare support workers this year, but critics warn there is still a need for more registered nurses on top of this

The recruitment of thousands of new healthcare support workers (HCSWs) this year will help hard-pressed teams but must not been seen as a replacing the need for registered nurses, say nursing leaders.

NHS trusts in England have made 35,000 job offers since the end of January with more than 25,000 HCSWs already in post, according to NHS England .

NHS England has made 35,000 job offers to healthcare support workers this year, but critics warn there is still a need for more registered nurses on top of this

A nurse with a support worker
Picture: iStock

The recruitment of thousands of new healthcare support workers (HCSWs) this year will help hard-pressed teams but must not been seen as a replacing the need for registered nurses, say nursing leaders.

NHS trusts in England have made 35,000 job offers since the end of January with more than 25,000 HCSWs already in post, according to NHS England.

A welcome addition but not a substitute for nurses

Of those recruited, 9,000 were new to healthcare following a nationwide drive to bring fresh faces into the sector.

While the recruitment of HCSWs is welcomed by nursing organisations such as the RCN, they also highlight the urgent need to boost numbers of registered nurses.

British Association of Critical Care Nurses chair Nicki Credland said: ‘HCSWs provide an essential role in supporting registered nurses to deliver care to patients.

‘They are valued members of the multidisciplinary team. However, they are in addition to – not in place of – the registered nursing workforce. You cannot replace registered nurses with HCSWs.’

RCN director for England Patricia Marquis said HCSWs are a welcome addition to nursing teams, but added: 'Ministers must not, however, consider this mission accomplished when tackling the long-term crisis in the nursing workforce.

‘Tens of thousands of nursing vacancies remain, and more action is needed to recruit and retain the nursing staff needed to keep patients safe. This has to start with fair pay.’

New recruits will be at heart of wards, clinics and communities

The government has said it is on track to reach its target of recruiting 50,000 more nurses by 2024, although critics say many more will be needed to fill current vacancies and tackle a huge backlog in care.

A recent analysis by the Health Foundation suggests the health service will still be at least 38,000 nurses short, even if the 50,000 target is reached.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said the newly recruited HCSWs would be at the heart of wards, clinics and communities.

‘NHS staff are already working incredibly hard with pressure on various fronts and, as we prepare for the winter period, additional HCSWs will be a huge support in helping deliver the plans we have already set out,’ she said.


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