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Wednesday, January 20, 1999 Published at 00:25 GMT


Unqualified staff teach nurse trainees

The nursing shortage has had an impact on training

Student nurses are being taught on hospital wards by health workers with no medical qualifications because of a shortage of senior, experienced staff, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The RCN's magazine criticises the "appalling" use of health care assistants (HCAs) to supervise and teach trainee nurses.

NHS in crisis
HCAs have no medical qualifications and are supposed to act as assistants to nurses, doing "the more menial, dirty jobs", says the Nursing Standard.

The magazine says the practice is quite common.

Lee Ranyard, sabbatical officer of the RCN's Association of Student Nurses, told the magazine an HCA wrongly showed him how to take a patient's blood pressure.

"It puts patients at risk because of the lack of qualified nurses in clinical areas," he said.

Brighton University Institute of Nursing and Midwifery director Sue Bernhauser said: "It can't fail to make you feel anxious. It is dreadful - it is deplorable."

Pay hike

The RCN says the problem is a shortage of experienced nurses and it believes increasing pay across the board is the main way of improving the situation.

It accused the government of take some of the attention away from pay by suggesting changes in training are a cause of the nursing shortage.

The Nursing Standard is launching a phone poll to find out whether nurses believe they should be trained in universitites or by health authorities.

Health Secretary Frank Dobson recently said some people may be put off nursing as a career because they feel it has become too academic.

The previous government introduced Project 2000 by which nurses were given more academic grounding away from the wards.

Pay diversion

But the RCN says there is widespread misunderstanding about the nature of Project 2000, which it believes has modernised nursing.

A spokeswoman said 50% of the training was practical, compared to 60% before the project was brought in.

"It is not as much of a change as people think," she said.

"We believe the training issue is a smokescreen to divert attention away from pay."

She admitted there were "some issues" with Project 2000, but said many of these were not to do with the training itself.

For example, trainee nurses were not always getting the time they needed with experienced nurses on the ward. She said this was due to staff shortages.

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