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DH fails to untangle pledges on family nurses and health visitors

The government has pledged to double the size of the Family Nurse Partnership but has so far failed to clarify how this will affect previous announcements on health visitor recruitment.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley announced this week that “twice as many disadvantaged families and new mums and dads will get help” from the FNP programme by 2015. It currently provides intensive support from early pregnancy until the child is two years old to around 6,000 families in England.

Last week health minister Anne Milton said the NHS would recruit an additional 4,200 health visitors over the same period, fulfilling a pre election pledge. Ms Milton had told Nursing Times the extra health visitors would be “health visitors as we know health visitors” in terms of their training and pay.

In his announcement this week, Mr Lansley said: “I want to see the numbers of families who get this intensive support to double by 2015. This, together with our plans to put 4,200 new health visitors into the workforce, will ensure that more and more young families – particularly those living in disadvantaged areas – get the help they need.”

However, he did not explain whether the staff needed to double the FNP programme would be sourced from the 4,200 extra health visitors or would be additional to them. 

A DH spokeswoman told Nursing Times more details on the workforce implications of the FNP pledge would be forthcoming.

She said: “Just over half of family nurses come from health visiting posts, but are then specially trained to deliver this programme. We will be setting out details of workforce expansion plans for both health visiting and the Family Nurse Partnership shortly.”

The Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, which is part of the union Unite, welcomed the plan to extend the FNP scheme.

But it too said it was “seeking clarification on whether the health visitors needed to boost the FNPs will be additional to – or come from – the extra 4,200 health visitors” announced by Ms Milton at its conference last week. 

The union also raised concerns about funding for the existing FNP programme.

Unite professional officer Dave Munday said: “It is good news to hear of this extra investment, however, we already know of areas that are decommissioning the FNP programme part way through the pilot scheme, for example, NHS Stockport.”

The FNP programme, which is based on a similar US initiative, has been tested in England since April 2007. There are currently teams in 55 local authority or primary care trust areas.

The DH estimates local costs for Family Nurse Partnerships are around £3000 per family per year.

Readers' comments (4)

  • we just need more heath visitors, being able to work with families, not FNPs.

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  • I was a Health Visitor for over 20 years before leaving to become a carer and then being ill myself. I would love to go back but have been unable to get onto any sort of return to practice course. Why not try to bring back experienced health visitors like myself who are currently wasting their skills, often working in low paid non-nursing jobs? It would be much cheaper, quicker and would also save the waste on their original training! I am beyond frustrated with how doors close on you as a nurse should you have to leave the job for an extended period, which I would imagine also comes under the sex descrimination act in some way!

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  • The FNP grew out of Health Visiting small wonder then that disenfranchised HV's choose to re train as FNP's. This way they have the opportunity to use some of their training in a more intense way than current caseloads allow. It also means no longer being seen as an adjunct to Social work or being limited to 0-5 age group.

    I agree with previous respondants.
    What a waste!

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  • I worked as a Health Visitor in the late 60's and 70's and then as a community Nurse manager for 15 years Health visitors were then trained to work with Families , babies children, family planning and school children teaching health education in the schools and in the 80's worked with, not for GP's Mrs Thatcher changed all that-has HV training changed so much we need fnps

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