A report has warned of the ‘catastrophic damage’ caused to health visitor services in Scotland by a government policy to create a generic community nurse.
The previous Labour/Liberal Democrat government in Scotland had introduced a Review of Community Nursing in 2006, which called for the generic community role.
As a result no health visitors had been trained in one of the pilot regions, NHS Highland and only recently in the other pilot regions NHS Lothian, NHS Tayside and NHS Borders.
This meant mental health problems in the under-five age group was going unnoticed because of a lack of health visitors.
The inquiry builds on recommendations set out in the 2003 Needs Assessment Report on Child and Adolescent Mental Health (SNAP) report.
According to the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee’s inquiry, the existing child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) framework was sound, but should be properly implemented across the country.
However the report added that health visitors also played a crucial role in identifying mental health problems in very young children.
Dr Philip Wilson, of the SNAP group, warned: ‘The bad news is that catastrophic damage has been wrought to the health visiting profession. The number of health visitors has declined, and the morale of the profession is the lowest that it has ever been—and the importance of its work should mean that its morale is high. Part of the reason for the decline in morale and the loss of numbers is that there have been some unfortunate policy developments.’
RCN Scotland called for a multi-skilled nursing team to look after patients in the community.
Lynne McDowall, RCN Scotland professional officer, said: ‘RCN Scotland is proposing a different way ahead which means that children and families are cared for by a holistic community health team which cares for all physical and mental health needs. Such teams would be made up of nurses with a range of skills in different areas and would be fully integrated with other healthcare professionals, such as GPs, and with other agencies and professionals with responsibilities for children.’
Is there a shortage of health visitors?