What about Healthcare Support Workers (HCSWs)?

Monday 6th June 2022 by @WeNurses

Healthcare support workers are a fundamental part of the NHS workforce and are vital in providing care to patients across a range of health settings. 

The Healthcare Support Worker Programme, sets out that healthcare support worker is an "umbrella term that covers a variety of health and care support roles, including healthcare assistant (HCA), nursing assistant, theatre support worker, maternity support worker and more."  HCSWs can work across many different clinical settings including acute, mental health, maternity, learning disabilities, children and young people, community, and primary care.

The healthcare support worker programme was launched in September 2019 to support NHS trusts to “increase their HCSW recruitment, minimise vacancies, avoid reliance on temporary staff and so provide greater continuity of care for patients”, sound familiar nurses?

The 2022/23 programme seeks to support organisations to recruit and retain HCSWs and MSWs through several workstreams, focusing on attracting HCSWs, innovating recruitment process, focusing on the induction, learning and development of HCSWs and MSWs, and valuing and recognising them.  A focus on widening access and supporting diversity is embedded in each of these workstreams, alongside gathering best practice case studies and running webinars to practically support all trusts.    

Furthermore, the programme is in place to "support more people to progress into nursing and midwifery roles in the future."

There are 732,00 registrants on the NMC register supported by 151,543 HCSWs who deliver 60% of the total patient care according to Unison.

Similarly to nursing, year-on-year establishment review figures show that the increase in patient demand means that establishments continue to need more HCSWs to run their services.  We are also seeing demand for HCSWs in other roles.  As of February 2022, 8000 HCSWs had moved into TNA roles.

Since January 2022, the NHS welcomed over 12,000 new HCSWs, of which over 5,000 were "new to care" with many moving sectors*. 

Dame Ruth May @CNOEnglandChief Nursing Officer for England, said: “We are so pleased to be welcoming people from all different walks of life into the NHS. The last year has seen nurses and midwives play a leading role in the fight against coronavirus, inspiring millions across England with their skilled and compassionate care.

A healthcare support worker can be the perfect entry point to the NHS, offering a varied and rewarding career.

Many of our registered nurses, midwives and allied health professionals began their careers as HCSWs.

But, WeCommunities has never chatted about our vital colleagues within the delivery of care that we care alongside every day.

WeCommunities is now really excited to be rectifying our lack of previous focus around HCSWs with a month-long focus on exploring the Healthcare Support Worker national programme which has the following priorities:

  • National recruitment campaign
  • Enhanced induction for new HCSWs
  • Career pathways
  • Local support


In line, roughly, with these focuses we are pleased to be holding the following 4 tweetchats, with details soon, in July:

  Tuesday 8pm   5th   July        Nurses Working Alongside HCSWs

  Tuesday  8pm 12th   July        Nurses Supporting HCSWs Learning & Career Development

  Tuesday 8pm 18th   July        Nurses and Our Role in HCSWs Recruitment & Retention 

  Tuesday 8pm 25th   July        Nurses Recognising & Celebrating HCSWs Value & Contribution To Care

We encourage those within our communities and those beyond them to join us for these short series of chats, where we'll look to identify, share and learn from the best practices in creating and delivering the best environment to support the amazing HCSWs that we care alongside every day. 

Photo Credit: HEE

*Numbers recorded are provided by NHS trusts and are not official NHS statistics.


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