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Healthcare assistants – what they can and cannot do

31 May 2007

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The Medical Defence Union (MDU) has given advice about practices wishing to extend the role of their healthcare assistants (HCAs).

Responding to a frequently asked question to its membership helpline, the MDU sets out the current list of standard duties which it would expect a HCA to undertake.

They are:

  • Phlebotomy.
  • Health promotion advice
  • Patient checks while working to a protocol (such as blood pressure and urine tests).
  • Taking electrocardiograms (ECGs).
  • Administrative tasks, such as entering data onto the computer, acting as a chaperone, height/weight measurement, spirometry/peak flow recording, foot care, retina screening and removal of sutures.

An HCA cannot administer vaccinations or injections under a Patient Group Direction, but must do so according to a Patient Specific Direction or following the issuing of an individual prescription to the patient by the GP.

The MDU reminds practices that HCAs can administer flu, pneumococcal vaccines or B12 injections provided they are working under the authority of a GP who is a member of the MDU, they have been assessed as competent to carry out the task, their training is recorded and kept up-to-date and a practice protocol is in place which complies with the law.

The MDU also recommends that a doctor or nurse be on the premises while a HCA administers vaccinations or injections, in case of emergency.