Ward stars A new validation and professional development scheme for mental health inpatient healthcare assistants (HCAs) has been launched.

HCAs have the most contact with patients but the least amount of training and often little recognition for their highly skilled and demanding role. But Ward Stars seeks to help make explicit those aspects of HCAs’ work particularly valued by mental health inpatients such as supportive relationships, meaningful involvement in their care and meaningful activities.

The Ward Stars process is structured around seven ‘stars’ that are focused on key themes of therapeutic inpatient care. Staff who work their way through the stars will accumulate a portfolio of diverse aspects of their work and will be presented with a certificate for each completed star.

Ward Stars has been developed by the team behind Star Wards, which a project of the social justice charity Bright, and works collaboratively with mental health wards to improve patients’ daily experiences and treatment outcomes.

The stars are in line with the Certificate of Fundamental Care proposed by the Cavendish Review. This review of healthcare assistants and support workers in NHS and social care recommended the introduction of a certificate that would “encompass the minimum competences that support workers in health and social care should achieve before they can start working in intimate caring roles.”

Nic Higham, in patient care consultant at Star Wards, wrote: “Working as a healthcare support worker on a range of mental health wards, I appreciate what a challenging as well as rewarding role this is. We've designed Ward Stars to be a straight-forward and satisfying structure for HCAs, and other support staff, to recognise and evidence the incredible work done with very vulnerable patients.”