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Ministers asked to clarify health visitor numbers

13 February 2009

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Union Unite is seeking ministerial clarification on what the new children’s plan means in terms of the immediate employment of health visitors.

Unite is concerned that the government’s Vision for a 21st century children’s health service, published yesterday (12 February 2009), is vague on the numbers needed for what is described as “stronger and better joined-up support during the crucial early years of life, including more health visitors”.

Unite’s National Officer for Health, Karen Reay said: “This strategy for children is long on aspirations and thin on detail, at a time when – according to the NHS’s own workforce statistics – a fulltime health visitor post is lost every 27 hours.

“Unite has always maintained that a universal health visiting service is required for all. Parents have made it clear that they want a universal home visiting service and a relationship with their own health visitor.

“The whole purpose of this plan will crumble if there are not enough trained and experienced health visitors implementing a universal programme of assessment and care for families and communities.”

Karen Reay said that Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, will be asking ministers:

  • How many more health visitors are budgeted for and when will they come on stream?
  • Have the cuts in the health visitor education budgets been restored to enable this to happen?
  • Why is this strategy moving away from an international, highly respected model of a universal home visiting health visitor service?
  • Why does the government persist in a policy that fails to recognise the need for a universal health visiting service, particularly in the wake of such tragedies as the Victoria Climbe and Baby P cases?

Karen Reay said: “Unite has always supported this government’s ‘family-friendly’ agenda since 1997, but remains concerned that the rhetoric is not matched by the depressing reality on the frontline, which our members report back to us on a daily basis.”