NHSThe Royal College of Nursing has described proposals for a voluntary register of health care support workers as “fundamentally weak”.

Britain's leading nursing union has called on the Government to do what is necessary to ensure that health care support workers are trained, monitored and supported through mandatory regulation underpinned by law.

Dr Peter Carter, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said that the NHS could not operate without health care support workers, who deliver care to patients in hospitals, care homes and the community.

“With the proposed voluntary system of regulation, employers and more importantly patients will not have full confidence that the person caring for them meets the standards required wherever they work," added Dr Carter.

"Voluntary regulation would be a compromise which simply wouldn’t solve the problem, and could delay what is actually needed, namely the mandatory regulation of all health care support workers, underpinned by law. A consistent, mandatory system of regulation is the only way to ensure that concerns about performance and conduct are tackled. A voluntary system will simply pave the way for multiple registers, varying standards and the most worrying situations slipping through the net.”

In a new document, The Weaknesses of Voluntary Regulation for Health Care Support Workers, the RCN outline what they believe are the fundamental pitfalls of a regulatory system which allows for an unacceptable level of risk to patient safety.

Health Minister Earl Howe recently stated that the Government has an “open mind” with regards to the regulation of health care support workers, and that he wishes to keep the situation under review in order to respond to the recommendations of the upcoming Francis report into care provided by the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust.

Go to www.rcn.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/493787/40_12_Support_worker_regulation_FINAL.pdf to read the report in full