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Healthcare Support Workers

Do you have a passion to make a difference to patient care? To be there to help others at a time in their lives when they need help to care for themselves. If so, then why not look at a career as a Healthcare Support Worker!

What is a Health Care Support Worker?

Healthcare Support Workers are one of the largest groups of clinical support workers who provide assistance to nurses and doctors in wards and clinics across the Trust, and also within the community.

Within Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT) you may find a Healthcare Support Worker (HCSW) called a Healthcare Assistant (HCA), Support Time Recovery Worker (STR) or even an Integrated Care Worker (ICW) but they are all Healthcare Support Workers who work to make a difference to peoples lives.

As a Healthcare Support Worker, you will be a valued member of a team working under the supervision of nurses and doctors, supporting them and helping patients on their journey back to full health. Your focus will be on keeping patients at the centre of all we do, providing high quality care and living our Trust values

In CPFT there are opportunities to work with older people, inphysical health teams, with children, within adult specialist mental health or learning disabilities teams. CPFT have roles based in both inpatient wards/hospitals and community settings, in the patient’s home.

Although it is hard work, you will be part of a supportive team. Our hospital could not run without our healthcare support workers.

Health Care Support Worker[pdf] 2MB

“If you like learning, if you like opportunity, if you like choice to grow and develop yourself, possibly to study towards obtaining a Nursing qualification. If you like the idea of caring for others during moments when they struggle to care for themselves, to make a rememberable difference for them.  If you want to come to feel a sense of belonging within a multi-disciplinary and multi skilled team, and be recognised and valued for your contribution – then this is something for you”

- Benjamin, HCA  

Is this a career for me?

Being a Healthcare Support Worker can be a demanding and stressful role. Working shifts that might start early and/or finish late, needing the stamina to be on your feet for most of the day, doing a physical job is not for everyone. BUT being a Healthcare Support Worker is one of the most rewarding roles within the NHS. It is a role in which you know you’ve made a difference to someone’s life at a time when they are struggling and sometimes at their most vulnerable.

If you:

  • want to help people to make a difference.
  • like working with people of all ages, backgrounds and cultures.
  • care about supporting someone in difficult circumstance and leave them with a smile on their face.

Can you:

  • put people at ease.
  • communicate with people
  • recognise when someone is anxious, or in distress and needs help
  • help assist people who may need washing or help going to the toilet

Do you:

  • care about vulnerable people
  • feel you could look after someone in the last stages of their life
  • feel you could preserve somebody’s dignity and respect them
  • want to be part of a team where you feel like you belong and are recognised and valued for the work you do
  • like learning, taking on new opportunities where you can grow and develop yourself


If you’ve answered yes to most of the above, then a Healthcare Support Worker role could be for you!

If you have any questions about being a Healthcare Support Worker please email:

E: HCSW.ProjectTeam@CPFT.nhs.uk

For current Healthcare Support Worker vacancies please click the link below:

Latest vacancies | CPFT NHS Trust

Additional links:

Careers in Care - Care and Support Work | A Question of Care


What tasks could I be doing?

Every day can be different depending on the needs of the patients and requests from the nursing staff.

Tasks can include:

  • Supporting patients who need assistance to get dressed, to eat, or with their personal hygiene for example taking them to the toilet or assisting in washing themselves.
  • Dealing with things such as sickness, incontinence and bad smells all with a dignified manner.
  • Making sure that patients are comfortable and well looked after.
  • Changing patients’ beds.
  • Helping people who have difficulty getting around and moving in or out of bed. This could include the use of specialist equipment for example a hoist.
  • Engaging with patients – listen to and talk to patients, playing boardgames or getting involved in creative activities and artwork, playing table tennis or even going for a walk.
  • Being the calming influence when a patient is upset or in distress.
  • Keeping accurate records on how much a patient eats or drinks, how much they weigh, calculating and recording BMI.
  • Record a patient’s temperature, pulse rate and blood pressure.
  • Undertaking physical and mental health observations with individual patients which contribute to care planning and risk assessment (safeguarding).
  • Taking a patient for an x-ray or procedure with another department within the hospital.
  • Advising nursing staff of any concerns you may have.

Working Patterns

You could be employed on either a part time or a full-time basis, there is also the option to join the CPFT Temporary Staffing Services where you can work as a Bank Healthcare Support Worker. We offer flexibility to allow you to have a better work life balance and to ensure our patients are cared for 24/7

Full time staff work 37.5 hours per week, and part time staff work on an agreed portion of full-time hours per week.

Whether you work full or part time you will be required to work a variety of shifts, and these will include working during the day, at night, weekend and bank/public holidays.


New to Care, Training and Career Development

Becoming a Healthcare Support Worker

There are no set entry requirements to become a Healthcare Support Worker, but good literacy and numeracy skills are expected, and in some cases GCSEs (or equivalent) in English and maths are required too. You may also need a healthcare qualification such as a BTEC or NVQ for some of our roles.

For some roles, some experience of healthcare or care work may be beneficial – this could be from paid or voluntary work, or through experience you bring in from previous roles.

But academic qualifications aren’t everything. You’ll also need to be caring, kind and willing to really get stuck into the role – it’s a hands-on environment where teamwork, communication and organisational skills are vital.


Care Certificate

The Care Certificate is an identified set of national standards which can be undertaken by Healthcare Support Workers who are newly appointed to CPFT, new to care, have no Health and Social Care qualifications or have a Health and Social Care qualification over five years old.

The Care Certificate was developed as part of the Cavendish Review work, jointly by Skills for Health, Health Education England and Skills for Care and launched nationally in 2015.

The Care Certificate Standards are as follows:

  • Understand your role
  • Your personal development
  • Duty of care
  • Equality and diversity
  • Work in a person-centred way
  • Communication
  • Privacy and dignity
  • Fluids and nutrition
  • Awareness of mental health, dementia and learning disability
  • Safeguarding adults
  • Safeguarding Children
  • Basic Life Support
  • Health and Safety
  • Handling information
  • Infection prevention and control

Care certificate | NHS Employers

Day-to-day Training

As a Healthcare Support Worker, you will have a dedicated team to support you in your day-to-day role. You will receive ‘on the job’ training for all tasks you are required to perform such as how to use specialised equipment, for example a hoist to move a patient safely whilst also keeping yourself and colleagues safe.  

If you are new to the trust, and or new to care, you may be assigned a mentor, or a practice educator or a pastoral support worker who will assist and guide you with things such a clinical skills, training, and shadow shifts.

Depending on the area you work in you will have access to other training for example Carer Awareness, Dementia, ligature Removal, Mental Capacity Act (MCA) Physical Interventions and Smoking Cessation. Medicines Administration will also be available for those working in OPAC Community Directorate

We also have a Learning and Development Team who are always there to support you in providing the tools and training to assist you in your career pathway within the trust.

Nursing Associate Apprenticeship

This training programme offers you the opportunity to train and qualify as a registered nurse whilst in employment with the trust.

A Nursing Associate (NA) is a new Band 4 role and is a new clinical role developed in England to work in Health and Social Care, bridging the gap between Healthcare Assistants and Registered Nurses.

The NA’s role is generic and trained to the standards set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council to become a registered practitioner with their own PIN after qualifying. Nursing associates are equipped with the knowledge, skills and behaviours that enable them to support Registered Nurses in the delivery of nursing care.  Unlike field specific Registered Nurses, the nursing associate is a generic role that can work in and across a wide range of health and care settings, with different client groups – in hospital, in the community, with adults, children, people with mental health conditions, and those with learning disabilities.

A Nursing associate will work with registered nurses to complement the existing team in primary, secondary, community and social care helping to plan, coordinate and deliver care. This role is regulated in England by Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC). Entry requirements include - Level 2 qualifications in Math’s and English e.g. GCSEs at Grade C/4, or Functional Skills or Level 3 Health and social care. You should be employed on a permanent contract of at least 30 hours per week

Qualified nursing associates will gain a foundation degree, typically involving 2 years of higher education. The course takes 23 months to complete and is taught at academic levels 4 and 5 and integrates a work-based programme of learning with theory. The benefits of having a NA in the team, includes building capacity of the nursing workforce, supporting nurses and providing a wider skill mix.  The role provides a development opportunity for staffing bands 1-4.

For more information about all the Apprenticeship Programmes available within Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust please email apprenticeships@cpft.nhs.uk or click on the link below:

Apprenticeships | CPFT NHS Trust



Staff Stories - Benjamin, Healthcare Assistant

Benjamin, Healthcare Assistant  (HCA)

What is your role?

My role with CPFT is as a Healthcare Assistant, working across various wards at Fulbourn Hospital, Cambridge; I have worked within Acute and Recovery Settings.

What does your working day look like?

My role is wide and varied. Each day can be different, depending on the specific needs of each patient, and depending on the tasks the nursing staff are required to undertake for each patient. However, within the variety, there is an underlying routine and predictability. Generally speaking – from one task to another, my role is to support with the general running of the ward, and supporting nursing staff and patients where required – this may include but not limited to: undertaking physical and mental health observations with individual patients which contribute to care planning and risk assessment (safeguarding); supporting patients with their daily Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s) - food preparation, personal hygiene (clothes washing), personal administration (completing forms, supporting with phone calls); the major aspect of my role is to   engage with patients in a therapeutic manner – to Be with them as a Human Being – talking, playing boardgames, creative activities.

What do you find rewarding?

I value the variety as well as the predictability of the role rewarding. I enjoy the interpersonal contact – i.e., forgetting the fact that patients are patients, but rather to engage with them as human beings. I learn about myself in the process – what it is to be human. I enjoy being an integral part of a team – equipped with the knowledge and skills and experience to create a difference for ourselves and others. If there is one thing I’ve learned to value – it is difference and diversity, and the value of my capabilities: I’ve learned that when I have struggled with a particular patient, there is someone within the team with the knowledge, skills, and personality to “connect” with the patient. Likewise, when person has struggled with a particular patient, I have been able to exercise my capabilities (sometimes I didn’t know I had), to step-in and make the required difference.

What do you find challenging?

I repeatedly learn this lesson: when I thought I had known something, I later learned that I did not know. The most challenging part of my role (which is also something that I value), it is the learning and personal development available to me. Each patient presents with new and different challenges, and there is no simple one solution to meeting those challenges. I am constantly learning – there is sometimes too much to learn, and the different avenues or directions I can take my learning is almost endless. The existential dilemma of Choice is my challenge – I ask myself daily: what will I learn today? How will I choose to approach or work with a particular patient today? What will work for this patient? What will not work for this patient? One of my biggest challenges is to learn to trust myself – to trust my innate capacity to become more than I am presently.   

What experience did you have before becoming a HCSW?

I entered into Healthcare rather late. I served 7 years in the British Army, followed by 10 years as a Quality Engineer in manufacturing. Concurrently to working as a HCA, I was training to practice as a Psychotherapist.

What would you tell someone considering becoming a HCSW?

If you like learning, if you like opportunity, if you like choice to grow and develop yourself, possibly to study towards obtaining a Nursing qualification - then this is something for you. If you like the idea of caring for others during moments when they struggle to care for themselves, to make a rememberable difference for them – then this is something for you. If you want to come to feel a sense of belonging within a multi-disciplinary and multi skilled team, and be recognised and valued for your contribution – then this is something for you

Where would like to be in 5 years’ time?

My personal and professional development plan is to qualify and practice as a Psychotherapist – possibly combining private practice with working with Psychological Well-being Services. Although my role as HCA doesn’t provide direct access to these opportunities, my role certainly provides me with the learning and exposure and experience which I consider invaluable to becoming the best mental health practitioner I can become.


Staff Stories - Ruth, Support Time & Recovery Worker

Ruth, Support Time Recovery and Reablement Worker (STR)

What is your role?

Support Time Recovery and Reablement Worker in adult mental health community team

What does your working day look like?

I visit people in their own homes or in the community and try and support them to be more independent; this could be practicing getting the bus or going shopping. I like to keep an eye on what’s on, out and about in the local area so I have lots of suggestions for people who are isolated and want to get out in their community.

What do you find rewarding?

I love that I’m making a difference to people, they may have been too anxious to go shopping before or worry about going into the local centre but with a bit of support and encouragement they can learn to do these things independently and it opens up a whole new world to them.

What do you find challenging?

Sometimes it can be scary going into service users’ homes when you don’t know them, however I always try to read a service users risk assessment and discuss with the care co-ordinator to make sure I have all the relevant information to keep myself safe. Service users could also get frustrated with their situations and I had to be good at diffusing that frustration so they could get the most out my support.

What experience did you have before becoming a HCSW? 

I had worked in support roles in the housing sector with homeless teenagers.

What would you tell someone considering becoming a HCSW?

Being a health care support worker was one of the most challenging roles I’ve worked in as working alongside people going through their mental health recovery journey requires emotional resilience but seeing the positive changes people make in their lives and being part of that is so exciting and makes you so proud of the people you support and yourself.

Where would like to be in 5 years’ time?

In a role where I can continue to support people but also be involved in managing and shaping the way care is delivered to ensure the care delivered is the very best.


Staff Stories - Vee, Healthcare Assistant

Vee, Healthcare Assistant (HCA)

What is your role?

My role at the hospital is  Healthcare Assistant 

Shifts are 7am to 3pm / 1pm till 9pm / 7pm till 9am

What does your working day look like?

My working day starts at 7am with a 30-minute handover from the last 24hrs on the ward, between 2 HCAs one will do physical observations and the other will do the environmental checks and assist with breakfast.

Can be asked to assist the nurses or take instructions of things they want completed e.g., fluid intake charts, food charts or 15-minute observations.

Support patients arriving or leaving and complete all paperwork required

Support all patients on the ward to consistently have their needs met and to keep them safe.

Have 1-2-1 time with allocated patients

Keep the ward clean with covid policy

Activities with the patients – table tennis, puzzles, artwork, walks etc

Attend hospital appointments and if necessary, when admitted to another hospital we will still provide 24hr care.

What do you find rewarding?

Everything, it’s an amazing job

What do you find challenging?

I struggle with the aggression from very ill patients, this is purely for personal reasons. I am PI trained but it still worries me. Thankfully, I’ve never been hurt yet.

What experience did you have before becoming a HCSW?

I have spent over 20yrs working with adults with learning disabilities and autism from mild to severe. This has been in residential, supportive living and college. I also spent 3yrs in a specialist neurological care home. I am also training as a communication co-ordinator where I would make communication passports for those with no speech or limited understanding. I enjoy all training and I have gained my advanced level 3 NVQ diploma

What would you tell someone considering becoming a HCSW?

If care is the area you want to be but you’re not sure which type of ward you like to be in then you can gain experience by registering with the CPFT Temporary Staffing Services or with the CPFT Volunteer Services. Never turn down training!

Where would like to be in 5 years’ time?

My biggest regret is that I didn’t do my nursing when I left school so at 53yrs old my options are limited. I would like to do the nursing assistant course. I’m hoping in 5yrs time I’m still working with the same great team on AAU

Reflections from a Service User

My jouney -  being supported by Healthcare Support Workers

Few people could understand what I was experiencing when I was unwell due to my mental health challenges. Nobody else was me – therefore, no matter how hard other people tried to put themselves in my shoes, there would always be some aspect of the footwear that wouldn’t adjust to their feet comfortably.

Whilst receiving support from CPFT, I met many diverse and unique people in health care support roles who wanted the best for me, but there are a couple of people who stick out significantly in my mind when reflecting on this period of my life. They were individuals who saw me as a whole person; respecting, accepting, and valuing the many aspects of my identity that are the building blocks of who I am. Instead of trying to force their feet into the Doc Martens that I had only recently broken into, they actively listened to me whilst I explained what it felt like to be in my shoes, whilst walking beside me in their own shoes.

They created a safe space for me to express what I was experiencing, without judgement. Human connections were created between us through the kindness, compassion, and respect that we offered one another within this reciprocal, professional relationship. The Healthcare Support Workers I have in mind did not have the qualifications to prescribe me medications or carry out any surgical operations; they did, however, believe in me, shared stories about their cats, gave me their time, listened to what my words and body language said, sat with me as I sobbed into a whole box of tissues, played Rummikub with me, and ensured my loved ones knew that they were not alone.

These Healthcare Support Workers introduced me to the importance of ‘being with’ – a way of working and supporting which underlies Peer Support Work, where we meet people where they are at in order to promote trust, mutuality, respect, autonomy, empowerment, and more. It was my lived experiences that led me to where I am now – this encompasses the people I have met along my recovery journey as well as the mental and physical health challenges I have experienced. I am forever grateful for the individuals I have met along this bumpy, imperfect road. They inspired me to use my experiences to support other people and supported me to take steps to where I am now.  

Received from service user LS

Contact information & useful links

Useful Links

Careers in Care - Care and Support Work | A Question of Care

Care certificate | NHS Employers

Apprenticeships | CPFT NHS Trust

Health Care Support Worker PDF Final.pdf [pdf] 2MB

Contact us 

E: HCSW.ProjectTeam@CPFT.nhs.uk

Dushanthi Cole
Clinical Education Lead – Nursing Associates & New to Healthcare Support Worker Project Lead

E: apprenticeships@cpft.nhs.uk


As a patient

As a patient, relative or carer using our services, sometimes you may need to turn to someone for help, advice, and support. 

Patient Advice and Liaison service  Contact the Trust