A rapid increase in the number of health visitors trained in recent years has led to fewer than expected being recruited to course places this academic year, according to the national workforce planning body.
Health Education England board papers show that while it planned to commission 1,042 training places for health visitors during the 2015-16 academic year, it expected to see 12% – or 138 – of those places unfilled.
“We have had significant growth over health visitor [course places] and that’s obviously given us a challenge this year”
In addition, while it planned to commission 502 district nurse course places, projections show 12% of these will also be left empty. Both estimations are based on data up until December.
“There are a number of factors contributing to the shortfall, the key issue is that this programme is demand-led,” said the HEE board papers in regards to the health visitor course numbers.
“HEE commissioned 118 more training places than planned in 2014-15 and this very large growth in previous years is the key to lower than planned commissions in 2015-16,” they added.
“There are a number of factors contributing to the shortfall, the key issue is that this programme is demand-led”
HEE board papers
“Over the last two years we have had significant growth over health visitor [course places] and that’s obviously given us a challenge this year going forward, as we are currently 138 short of what our target would be,” said Nicki Latham, HEE’s director for performance and development, as she presented to the board yesterday.
The significant growth in health visitor training places was as a result of the previous coalition government’s pledge to create 4,200 extra health visitors between 2011 and April 2015. The target was almost met, bringing the total health visitor workforce to just under 12,100.
However, recent reductions in government funding for local councils, which now commission health visiting services, has led to plans to reduce these services and is putting posts at risk.
Meanwhile, papers from yesterday’s board meeting showed the number of filled practice nurse training places had improved. HEE said it expected to exceed its target number of commissions by 1% at the end of the academic year.
Nursing Times reported in December that around 40% of HEE’s planned 359 training places for practice nurses this academic year were not filled, based on data from October.
Council papers from this week’s meeting said the turnaround was due to additional cohorts of students on these courses planning to start between January and March.