Last reviewed 5 July 2013

The Code of Conduct for Healthcare Support Workers and Adult Social Care Workers in England (the 2013 Code) was launched in April 2013 to replace the previous General Social Care Council’s (GSCC’s) Codes of Practice, which were in use since 2004. The 2013 Code has been issued with a set of National Minimum Training Standards for Healthcare Support Workers and Adult Social Care Workers in England. The two documents are intended to be used together. In this second of two articles, Chris Payne examines the National Minimum Training Standards.

National Minimum Training Standards

The standards expand Section 6 of the Code of Conduct in which care workers are exhorted to improve the quality of their work by taking part in continuous professional development by:

  • keeping up to date with all statutory and mandatory training

  • developing competence

  • keeping records of their training

  • helping others with their learning.

The standards add flesh to these bones by describing what minimum knowledge and skills are required of a care worker, and describe the minimum he or she should know in any role that he or she occupies. It is acknowledged that staff will achieve most of the standards through induction learning, but they should not confuse achievement of the minimum standards with being fully competent, which will usually require further learning.

Care workers might use the standards as a self-development tool to identify their current knowledge and future learning needs. Employers and managers might use the standards as a checklist in selection and recruitment, and later in supervision and appraisal, for example. Few would dispute the relevance of the contents to the majority of care roles, though the average care worker may need help to understand the overblown ideas that some standards reflect.

For example, Standard 2 “Personal Development” states: “2.2.3 Understand the importance of reflective practice to continuously improve the quality of the service you provide.” “Reflective practice” is a sophisticated idea, which does not seem necessary to introduce at this minimum level. The requirement should be more one of: “You should be able to think about your actions (to learn from them and improve your practice).” Similarly 2.2.1 states: “Know the functional level of literacy, numeracy and communication skills necessary to carry out your role.” This can be translated as: “You should know how much reading, writing and number work your job requires and show that you have the educational attainments to meet those requirements.”

Employers and managers who use the standards in selection interviews, supervision and staff appraisals might also have to do some translating and reframing, though they should be used to doing this in relation to the induction and other occupational standards, where many abstract ideas have to be represented as concrete reality. For example, try and unpick Standard 3, “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion” without some vigorous head-scratching. It would have been more helpful to have written these standards in simpler and different terms from the induction and occupational standards, so that they stand out from them. As they overlap so much with the induction standards, they appear far from fresh in the way that they are written and presented.

The role of the health care support worker and adult social care worker

  1. Your personal development.

  2. Effective communication.

  3. Equality, diversity and inclusion.

  4. Duty of care.

  5. Safeguarding.

  6. Person-centred care and support.

  7. Health and safety.

  8. Handling information.

  9. Infection prevention and control.

Discussion

Indeed both the Code of Conduct and the standards relate much more to institutional service than community care contexts. They also appear more healthcare than social care focused. In fact, the “Acknowledgements” section of the Code of Conduct states that the contents were largely adapted from equivalent codes produced for NHS healthcare support workers in Wales and Scotland.

As already noted, these countries have separate codes for healthcare and social care. The English version gives the distinct flavour of social care being tacked on to something that was produced for healthcare support workers, and not as a truly integrated product. This impression is conveyed by the rather heavy-sounding titles (for healthcare support workers and adult social care workers in England).

The standards on the other hand draw heavily on the common social care induction standards as if to compensate for the healthcare bias of the Code of Conduct, though both training frameworks of course include strong healthcare elements, eg on the importance of learning about infection control. Stripped of any registration and regulatory significance and without an equivalent employers' Code of Conduct/Practice, these frameworks seem tokenistic. They offer little real added value to what already exists. For social care workers, the Code of Conduct in particular is arguably inferior to its GSCC predecessor, which is much more rooted in the social care context.

Nevertheless, care service employers and managers are advised to obtain their own copies of both frameworks and to distribute them as they have done with the original. That is, they should make sure each employee is provided with a copy in their employment pack and to have copies included in staff handbooks, and possibly display them on staff notice boards. The documents are available in various formats, which can be downloaded from either Skills for Care (www.skillsforcare.org.uk) or Skills for Health (www.skillsforhealth.org.uk).