Healthcare assistants (HCAs) are an integral part of the healthcare team. They assist doctors, nurses and other professionals by helping treat patients, carrying out medical tasks, preparing equipment for use in hospital or community settings, arranging appointments and transport to hospital for patients.
How much does a healthcare assistant earn working for the NHS?
A healthcare assistant can earn, on average, a starting salary in the region of £18,000 to £24,000 a year working for the NHS if they are on a full-time contract. These figures are based on jobs posted on Indeed.com in September 2021 so will be subject to change. The higher salaries are London based.
healthcare assistants on a sessional basis earn between £8.96 and £10 per hour on average while healthcare assistants classed as non-sessional can earn from £12 to £15 per hour.
How Do I Train To Be A Healthcare Assistant For the NHS
Training to become a healthcare assistant involves a mixture of on-the-job training and study.
On the job training
Almost all employers looking for a healthcare assistant will expect a minimum one year post leaving school experience in a care related field before they consider you for an available position with their organisation. You can then join as an ‘unqualified’ worker, with only informal training in health and social care.
In the first year of employment, you will shadow a fully qualified healthcare assistant to learn how things are done, as well as helping shift tasks around where necessary. In the second year, you will have worked under the guidance of a healthcare professional long enough to be deemed ready for your formal training if you have not already done so the job.
This may well involve observation of more experienced staff, with some hands-on experience in between for you to build up your skills and knowledge gradually. On-the-job training will involve taking part in procedures such as changing dressings, giving injections or suppositories, intravenous cannulation (placing a drip into someone’s arm), helping patients out of bed, or assisting with their daily care needs.
Some employers will help you to study for a City and Guilds Level 2 Certificate in Health and Social Care which is an entry-level qualification suitable for those who are new to the caring professions. You may receive some formal training in first aid at work as well. This may be given at the same time as you study for your qualification, and will help to prepare you to deal with any emergency care situations that might arise in your place of work.
What Do Healthcare Assistants Do?
Healthcare assistants are hugely important members of the health care team. They perform a range of roles including:
- assisting doctors and nurses with general duties
- taking patients’ pulses and temperatures;
- preparing equipment for use in hospital or community settings
- arranging appointments and transport to hospital for patients
- administering medication (in line with strict guidelines)
- giving injections
- dressing wounds
- assisting with physiotherapy
- helping patients out of bed
- assisting with personal care needs
- administering oxygen.
It’s also expected that you will be able to undertake some more advanced medical procedures if required, such as taking blood samples, carrying out ECGs and giving sutures(stitches).
What Do I Need To Be A Healthcare Assistant?
Healthcare assistants don’t need a degree to succeed in this career but there are a few things you should have:
A positive attitude and a willingness to provide essential care, as well as the know-how to carry out procedures safely and competently.
HCAs are not qualified to prescribe medication but they can take an active role in advising on the correct use of medicine. They also play a role in keeping patients comfortable during treatments, therapies and procedures. This can include communicating with them, helping give them massages and comforting them in general.
Are Healthcare Assistants Currently In Demand in the UK?
Demand for healthcare assistants is increasing with the growing number of registered nurses and doctors required to provide enhanced services in the UK.
Where can I find healthcare assistant jobs?
You can apply for work with local authorities, the National Health Service (NHS), independent care homes and private firms. You may also be able to secure temporary or casual employment at holiday resorts, hotels, cruise ships and other places where people are in need of your skills.
As you gain more experience, you should have no problem moving into more advanced healthcare assistant jobs.
Your pay will depend on your level of training, the size of the institution you work for and whether you are employed as a full-time or part-time worker. For example, salaries in London tend to be higher than those in other parts of the country. You can also look into taking some additional relevant qualifications to further your career.
Is there anything else I should be aware of before applying to become a Healthcare Assistant?
Healthcare assistants are always in demand, but the work is physically demanding. It’s vitally important that you have a positive attitude to patient care and enjoy giving care and company to people who are often in poor health or in pain.
You must have excellent communication skills so that you can discuss patients’ needs with doctors, nurses, relatives and other members of the healthcare team. You must also be patient and have a good sense of humour to keep patients calm during times of stress.
Healthcare assistants are also expected to work quickly, efficiently and with their hands constantly moving. The ability to work well under pressure is essential as you may need to complete several tasks at once. Computer skills will also be an essential asset when starting out in a career as a Healthcare Professional with the NHS.