Campaigners have handed a petition to Scottish ministers calling for better access to health visitors.
The petition called on Scottish ministers to include a statutory entitlement to universal health visiting services in legislation and for a “named person” for the 0-5 age group to be a health visitor.
The named person concept is already being rolled out in parts of Scotland. It acts as a first point of contact between a child, their family and key services.
The role is filled by midwives for the first 10 days of life, then the health visitor, before responsibility is handed over to schools at the age of five.
The Children and Young People Bill, which is currently passing through the Scottish parliament, aims to enshrine the named person concept in law. However, the Health Visitors for Scotland campaigners want it to go further.
Aileen Campbell, Scottish minister for children and young people, was presented with a petition signed by 1,500 people from across Scotland last Thursday.
The campaign is being run Royal College of Nursing Scotland and is supported by a range of nursing organisations and children’s charities.
These include the Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association, the Queen’s Nursing Institute for Scotland, and the Institute of Health Visiting.
RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe said: “The Children and Young People Bill should explicitly state that the Named Person for age 0-5 be a health visitor.
“If it is not made clear in the bill we could see the dilution of this vital role and our universal health visiting service, which would be bad news for children and for families.”
Ms Fyffe added: “A proper commitment to health visiting, backed up by necessary investment so that Scotland has the right number of health visitors, is what is required to improve the lives of this and future generations of children.”
Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, welcomed the petition. He said: “We need more and better trained health visitors now and in the future to realise our ambitions for maximising early years’ development.
“The Scottish Government needs to act with more urgency and take steps now on the workforce shortages in respect of health visitors – especially in light of the named person proposals set out in the Children and Young People Bill,” he said.
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