Healthcare assistant
Health & Care

Healthcare Assistants (often shortened to HCAs) work in a health setting and carry out tasks which are essential but not very technical. They work under the supervision of qualified staff, often nurses.

Work Activities

In a hospital, a healthcare assistant looks after patients and their needs, so they may need to work shifts which might include night or week-end work. In a health centres or GP surgery, a HCA may work during the day or evening but would not expect to work at night.

The popular view of a nurse is of someone dabbing a fevered brow or tucking a patient up in bed and this role is just as likely to be performed by a hospital HCA as a fully qualified nurse.

Duties may vary but a HCA may be expected:

  • To talk to patients
  • To serve meals and assist patients who cannot feed or drink by themselves
  • To wash and help dress patients who cannot manage by themselves
  • To assist patients who need help with using the toilet
  • To make beds
  • To assist with monitoring of patients, for example by weighing them or taking their temperature
  • To take blood from patients
  • To send samples to the laboratory
  • To sterilise equipment
  • To tidy up and re-stock examination rooms and public areas
  • To keep records
  • To engage in health promotion

Sometimes the term healthcare assistant or support worker or carer may be applied to people who work with clients in their home. This would involve making visits to patients every day to help with washing, dressing, meals, medication and so on.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills required

  • Kind, caring and friendly
  • Responsible
  • Happy to follow instructions but be proactive when needed
  • Happy to help patients with personal care if they cannot manage themselves
  • Respectful of the dignity and well-being of patients
  • Good communication skills
  • Good observational skills

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers

  • NHS hospitals
  • Private sector hospitals
  • Care homes
  • Nursing homes
  • Health-care centres
  • GP surgeries


Qualifications and training provided

No minimum academic qualifications are set, but individual employers may set out their own requirements. Applicants should have good levels of literacy and numeracy: GCSEs in English and Maths may be required. It is an advantage to have relevant experience or to have completed Btecs or NVQs in subjects related to healthcare. One example could be the Btec Level 2 or 3 in Health and Social Care.

You will need evidence that you are of good character, so you will be asked for personal references and a certificate from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS certificate) showing that there is no evidence that you have committed a crime that would make it inappropriate for you to work with children or vulnerable adults.

It may be helpful to speak or write Welsh if you wish to work in Wales.

A clean car driving licence is required if you apply for work which involves travelling around to see patients.

Applicants for posts in the NHS should be aware of the values of the NHS eg commitment to quality care, compassion, improving lives, respect and dignity, working together for patients and everyone counts.

Applicants for posts in the NHS in England should be aware of the revamped NHS constitution.

You will receive training to become a healthcare assistant, such as the Care Certificate.

Apprenticeships may be available in Health and Social Care at Level 2 and 3.

Learning is encouraged. With further experience and qualifications, you can become a senior healthcare assistant or assistant practitioner. Some healthcare assistants go on to qualify as registered nurses or enter other caring professions after further education and training.

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