The importance of healthcare support workers

Healthcare support workers (HCSWs) play a crucial role in all aspects of care for patients. HCSW is an umbrella term including healthcare assistants and nursing assistants, working in settings including community care, primary care, mental health, maternity services and learning disability services.

Our (NHS England) national HCSW programme

A national HCSW programme began development in September 2019, to minimise healthcare support worker vacancies. By June 2020, the urgency of this increased as the COVID-19 pandemic saw demand for HCSWs rise sharply. Reducing and maintaining minimal HCSW vacancy rates is essential to supporting system recovery from COVID-19 and delivery of the NHS Long Term Plan.

The programme supports organisations to minimise vacancies via:

  • A national recruitment drive through the ‘We Are The NHS’ campaign and other platforms to raise awareness of the HCSW role.
  • Working with Health Education England (HEE) on a revised Care Certificate and enhanced onboarding.
  • Offering support to providers with the highest number of vacancies to address specific workforce challenges.

This guide showcases examples of best practice in addressing challenges facing the HCSW workforce and forms part of the programme’s universal support offer for organisations. This package of support can be found on the FutureNHS Platform, and aims to help you reduce HCSW vacancies quickly and sustainably.

Next sections in this guidance

Download this guidance as a PDF: Attracting people into healthcare support worker roles – A practical guide to developing your healthcare support worker workforce.