Health minister Anne Milton has denied plans for fast-track health visitor course and more on-the -job training will dumb down the health visiting profession.
Speaking to Nursing Times following the launch of the government’s Health Visitor Implementation Plan, Ms Milton said the government was committed to producing a skilled health visitor workforce that will become health leaders in their communities.
The number of health visitors employed in NHS posts fell from 10,137 in 2004 to 8,017 in 2010. But Ms Milton said she was confident the government’s plan would reverse the decline and help the government meet its target of recruiting 4,200 extra health visitors to the profession by 2015.
She said: “It’s been tough being a health visitor. They are overworked, pretty demoralised and wanting to do more but not having the time.
“This is a call to action. The really important thing for people in the profession and people who have left the profession is this is a demonstration, a really clear, unequivocal message from government that we want health visitors.”
Under the plan – seen in draft form by Nursing Times last month – educators will be encouraged to develop more flexible training programmes.
Deputy chief nursing officer Viv Bennett told Nursing Times this could include more work based training and fast-track courses for graduates from other disciplines.
She said places on these fast-track courses – such as the one being offered at King’s College London where students train to become a registered nurse and health visitor in three years – would “most likely” be offered to graduates from the life sciences.
A course at NHS Cornwall and Isles of Scilly where community nurses train to become health visitors while practising alongside qualified health visitors will also be encouraged.
Another key proponent of the plan is introducing nurses to health visiting teams to obtain relevant experience which will help them pass health visitor course entry interviews (news, page 2, 1 February).
The possibility of offering distance learning courses through the Open University is being considered in the long term.
Ms Milton denied flexibility would threaten standards. She said: “There is no dumbing down whatsoever.”
Ms Bennett said the new plan would restore professional autonomy and allow health visitors to use their clinical judgement.
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