HEALTHCARE assistants should be used to fill gaps in the nursing workforce, union leaders said today.
About 220,000 healthcare assistants work in the NHS in the UK, with many already extending their skills by training to become nurses.
Today Unison, the UK's largest health union, will tell Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt at a conference in London that the solution to nursing shortages is "right under our noses".
Gail Adams, Unison's head of nursing, said: "We have an army of 220,000 healthcare assistants working in the NHS who know exactly what life on the wards is like.
"Many of those are ready and willing to fill the nursing gap."