The head of the new health visitor task force has promised to scrutinise the government’s performance to ensure plans to create an extra 4,200 health visitor jobs over the next four years become a reality.
Former assistant chief nurse Dame Elizabeth Fradd, who has worked as a health visitor and a children’s nurse, accepted increasing the workforce would be difficult in the current climate of financial constraint and NHS reorganisation, but she insisted the case for more health visitors had been made.
The 15-strong task force which has members from across the NHS was set up following concerns primary care trusts, responsible for commissioning health visitor services, were not creating enough new jobs.
Dame Elizabeth said: “It’s going to be a challenge and none of us are under any illusions about that but if you are committed to improving the lot of children in society then it is good investment.
“There is a lot of evidence now to show there are huge economic and emotional benefits from health visiting, which we haven’t had in the past. These are the things that will convince the chief executives and the managers.”
Dame Elizabeth plans to meet with health visitors from some of the 20 sites designated as early implementers to discover lessons for success.
She told Nursing Times she was unconcerned only three members of the taskforce had a health visitor background – herself, Pip O’Byrne, chair of the 4Children charity, and senior public health nurse Anita McCrum. Dame Elizabeth said there was a big health visitor presence on other groups involved with implementing the policy within the DH: the programme board, the health visitor stakeholder forum and the delivery partnership group.
The task force’s 15 members include Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation which represents NHS managers, and the Royal College of GPs commissioning lead Dr Robert Varnam.
Dame Elizabeth said the varied backgrounds and seniority of the members meant they would be able to influence relevant people across the NHS.
“We have got a key role to champion the programme and really be a bit of a critical friend [to the government] to ask the difficult questions.”