The biggest provider of out-of-hospital NHS services in Huddersfield has denied using translators to do nurses’ work.
A source has accused Locala of using non-medical staff – previously employed as Urdu and Punjabi translators – to work as ‘supporting family assistants’ (SFAs).
The source said the SFAs are carrying out duties performed by qualified health visitors.
They said the SFAs receive a short course of training, shadowing health visitors, before giving advice in clinics to new mothers on feeding their babies.
And it is alleged that the SFAs have been working in mums’ homes as lone workers.
The source said: “These SFAs are actually just interpreters who are now taking over health visitor baby clinics after a short period of ‘shadowing’ a health visitor.
“Locala are happy that they have had sufficient ‘in-house’ training.
“These individuals have not completed any recognised program of study.
“They are now offering specialised advice to mums around feeding, growth and infant nutrition in clinics with only a community nursery nurse (not a registered nurse) there to advise them and at home as lone workers.”
The source added: “It’s a disaster waiting to happen.
“Obviously it’s not all our role but a significant element.
“We are up in arms about it.”
It is alleged that SFAs can now access and write in patients’ records which a qualified health visitor must then countersign.
The source said: “If they make a mistake it’s the countersigner who carries the can.”
But Locala denied SFAs were doing health visitors’ work.
The agency said they rarely went into patients’ homes – and only if the worker had been assessed by a health visitor.
A Locala spokesperson said: “Locala’s SFAs are providing much-needed basic support to families – not health visitor work.
“They very rarely go into patient homes, but if they do it is only when they have been fully assessed by a health visitor.
“The SFAs promote and support the health and wellbeing of all preschool age children, their families and the wider community.
“They work as a member of the health visiting team and complement the service to provide a high quality service to meet the healthcare needs of preschool aged children and their parents.
“They provide important first line interventions to meet a variety of health needs including diet and nutrition, breastfeeding and dental health.
“These are not clinical activities, rather fundamental health and wellbeing.
“The role provides an effective way to engage with local families.”