Aim To investigate whether national vocational qualifications (NVQs) have the potential to improve the quality of care for vulnerable older people.
Method An antecedent study was carried out by interviewing care staff in care homes to determine the process of achieving an NVQ and to identify the specific areas of enquiry. Individual face-to-face interviews were conducted with representatives of six training providers, who were contracted by a county council to provide training and assessment to care staff undertaking NVQ in Care levels 2 and 3. Face-to-face interviews were also carried out with care staff working in residential and nursing homes, registered with the training providers.
Findings The majority of care staff receive some training, usually in-house, but this training is not necessarily specific to NVQ. Achieving an NVQ in Care is not dependent on the ability to demonstrate competence in all aspects of care, because there is a choice of units for which candidates provide evidence. The extent to which the knowledge and skills of care staff are assessed, and the standards of care that they provide to meet the holistic needs of residents, depend largely on the competence of the assessor. NVQ in Care levels 2 and 3 are mainly concerned with personal care needs rather than the healthcare requirements of residents.
Conclusion NVQ in Care is an assessment process and not a training course leading to a qualification. However, some training providers offer a set course, while others assess competence on knowledge and skills. The unit contents of NVQ in Care levels 2 and 3 do not address the holistic needs of older people because some important aspects of care, for example, enabling clients to eat, drink and use toilet facilities, are optional.