Under the 18-month project, the UK Public Health Association aims to establish a clear statement about what constitutes health visiting and develop a best practice guide.
The initiative has £30,000 in government funding and will consider how health visiting is funded and whether staff need to be based in GP surgeries or local authority workforces.
The association will submit recommendations from the project, which has the support of stakeholders – including unions, charities and academics – to ministers.
The UKPHA began planning the project after disagreeing with conclusions of the government-commissioned review of health visiting, Facing the Future, which was published in June 2007.
This review, led by Rosalynde Lowe, chairperson of the Queen’s Nursing Institute, recommended that health visitors lead multidisciplinary teams and focus on working with vulnerable families.
The document outlining the UKPHA project says the association wants to see the service ‘retain a wider stance for prevention and public health’. It also criticises the government for ‘not fully acknowledging the existence of health visiting as a service or as a profession’, and for failing to address a fall in health visitor numbers.
UKPHA chief executive Angela Mawle said: ‘The Department of Health review was just about how they could deal with their diminished workforce. Instead we are looking at how the service should really work.’
‘Of course we think there should be help for the most vulnerable families. But health visiting has always been about wide public protection and we think all families and children should be supported.’