More than a 1,000 extra health visitors have been recruited over the past two years, according to latest workforce figures.
The figures suggest the government has made up ground on a pre-election pledge to have an extra 4,200 health visitors in post by 2015, after a slow start.
When the coalition government came to power in May 2010 there were 8,092 health visitors in post in England. But by May 2012 the number had only climbed by around 300 to 8,384.
In November health minister Dan Poulter said he was “expecting” 1,000 more newly qualified health visitors to come through this year.
Latest data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre shows this has now been achieved and that in February there were 9,113 additional full-time equivalent health visitors in post.
The largest increase has been in the North, where 472 extra health visitors have been recruited. This compares to 321 in the Midlands and East Anglia, 197 in the South and just 31 in London.
Dr Poulter said: “Recruiting and training more is a priority for us and it’s good that we’re already at over 1,000 extra health visitors since May 2010, and well on our way to achieving our target of an extra 4,200 in 2015. There are over 2,000 health visitors currently in training, with more places planned for next year.
“For every pound we spend on health visitors we receive many times more in return, the support they offer parents and babies in providing the best start in life is invaluable.”
Institute of Health Visiting director Dr Cheryll Adams welcomed the rise.
She said: “While the numbers of health visitors are still at their lowest ratio to number of children for more than 30 years, this news demonstrates the commitment of this government to ensuring that their target of 4,200 new health visitors this parliament will be met.
“This very positive announcement will also act to motivate a very busy workforce,” she added. “It is essential though not to take the ‘foot off the accelerator’ until all 4,200 new posts have been filled.”