Five hundred new health visitor jobs will be created over the next four years in Scotland, it was announced yesterday.
More than £40m will be invested in creating the extra jobs by 2017-18, according to the Scottish government.
“There is much work to be done in making this a reality and the devil will be in the detail”
Scottish health secretary Alex Neil said the new workers would play a key role in government efforts to reduce health inequalities.
“Health visitors play a vital role in our communities and they are at the core of delivering universal services,” he said.
“We want to invest in health visitors as the first part of the work to fulfil our vision to revolutionise children’s services and make Scotland the best place to grow up.”
The government pledged to invest £1.5m in revamping health visitor education in 2014-15, plus £2m to start creating new jobs.
Funding for new posts will be £6.8m in 2015-16, £12.8m in 2016-17 and £20m in 2017-18.
The move has been welcomed by nursing unions as a good step forward, although they highlighted that further work was needed.
Unite, which includes the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, said 500 new health visitors was the “minimum” number needed.
“There is much work to be done in making this a reality and the devil will be in the detail as to how this will be implemented,” said Unite professional officer for Scotland Gavin Fergie.
“We view this four-year plan not as an end in itself but a first constructive step in a continuing programme to develop the profession into the 2020s,” he said.
He also highlighted the need for investment in other branches of community nursing, including school nursing and district nursing.
Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, described the announcement as a “significant step in the right direction”.
“We will continue to engage with the Scottish government to make sure Scotland’s families do have ready access to and support from health visitors,” she said.