A work experience scheme has been rolled out across three NHS hospitals in the West Midlands in which unpaid jobseekers help deliver patient care.
Dozens of unemployed people will work as ‘ward service assistants’ in the Sandwell and West Birmingham hospitals trust following a successful pilot scheme.
The eight week pilot scheme operated at Sandwell Hospital, where six unemployed people helped care for patients on the wards. Tasks included serving hot and cold drink, aiding with eating, general tidying, reading to patients, and collecting medicine from the hospital pharmacy.
All six job seekers, identified by their red t-shirts, were subject to checks by the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) and underwent two weeks training at Sandwell College.
Pauline Jones, Account Manager at Jobcentre Plus, said that two of the participants were offered jobs outside the hospital following their placement.
Now, the government backed scheme will be introduced across three NHS hospitals.
But unisons have criticised the move as ‘health care on the cheap. Ravi Subramanian, the head of the Unison union in the West Midlands, said: “Now the hospital is making moves to deliver health care on the cheap, by using people on work experience to help with patient care.”
“Patients and staff will rightly be very worried about the standard of patient care as this scheme is rolled out.”
But a Trust spokesman denied jobseekers were involved in “nursing or health care assistant roles” but instead “helped support patients through their hospital experience”.
The trust said in a statement: "We are situated in a deprived area with high unemployment and we think it is important to help get people back into work. The project gave participants the opportunity to gain confidence, training and experience, under supervision."
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