Careworkers asked to do registered nurses’ jobs

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THE safety of elderly and disabled people who rely on homecare is being put at risk because staff are receiving inadequate training, according to a Unison study published yesterday.

The survey of more than 1,000 care workers employed by councils and private firms across the UK, found that staff are increasingly being asked to perform intimate procedures that would previously have only been carried out by registered nurses.

Changing catheter bags, peg feeding, stoma care (A stoma is a bud-like structure that is formed when a surgeon stitches the opening of a patient’s bowel or ureter to the skin on the abdomen. A pouch is placed over the stoma to collect waste products that would usually pass through the colon and out of the body), administering medication and looking after patients with dementia, are just some of the difficult tasks that homecare workers carry out, even though many receive little or no training.

Inadequate training can leave care users in significant discomfort and vulnerable to infections. And, worse still, insufficient training on how to administer medication could lead to fatal overdoses, says Unison.

Meanwhile, homecare workers are being denied access to vital knowledge, new skills and career opportunities, the survey finds.

Of the homecare workers surveyed who regularly carry out the following tasks:

l Almost six in ten (59 per cent) had received no training in how to attach or change a convene catheter.

• More than half (52 per cent) had not been shown how to perform stoma care.

• More than four in ten (45 per cent) had not received training in how to change a catheter bag.

• More than a third (38 per cent) hadn’t been showed how to carry out peg feeding.

Almost a quarter of staff (24 per cent) administering medication had received no training, despite some of them distributing drugs such as liquid morphine and insulin.

More than two thirds (69 per cent) said they cared for people who suffer from dementia. Despite this, more than a quarter (27 per cent) had received no training in how to work with people with this illness.

More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of respondents had asked for extra training to help them carry out their increasingly demanding roles, but less than half (49 per cent) had received any.