A special week of events, starting today, will celebrate the nation’s health visitors and 120 years of the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors Association.
The week kicks off today with a conference, held in partnership with the Welsh government, where speakers will include Rebecca Evans, minister for social services and public health.
“Health visitor week is about celebrating all the amazing work that health visitors do”
Events are also taking place in Glasgow on Tuesday and in Belfast on Thursday, while health visitors in England can tune into a live webinar on Wednesday – topics for discussion include oral health and sudden infant death syndrome.
The CPHVA, which is part of the union Unite, said it was calling on all health visitors and supporters to sign up and get involved to help promote the merits of the health visiting profession and its role in improving the outcomes for children and their families.
Dave Munday, Unite lead professional officer, said: “Health visitor week is about celebrating all the amazing work that health visitors do supporting children and their families, but there is also a very serious side to the week.
“With the future of health visiting under threat in England, by the deep cuts to public health budgets and the shift to cash-strapped local authority control, now more than ever we need to speak up to protect the profession,” he said.
Mr Munday said ministers needed to “wake-up” to the fact that progress made under the Health Visitor Implementation Plan, which boosted the workforce by more than 4,000, could be “jeopardised”.
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He added: “We are also urging local councils, which now have responsibility for health visiting budgets, to resist the temptation to make short-term gains by slashing health visitor numbers when in the medium to long term this will be much more expensive.”
As an example, he noted that when toothbrushes and toothpaste was sent directly to families with no support, there was a 16% reduction in tooth decay, but when a health visitor provided advice alongside the pack, the reduction rate increased to 40%.
Meanwhile, Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board is also running its own special awareness events to mark the week.
HealthvisitorsIt will be a “real celebration” of health, wellbeing and family relationships, said the board’s professional lead for health visiting.
Jane O’Kane’ s team is heading out into the communities to share information, teach important new skills and answer questions.
These include baby massage and guidance on diet and immunisation and will also see the teams demonstrating infant CPR techniques.
The health visitors will also be promoting the role they play in public health and their profession as a potential career.
In addition, they will also be highlighting the new Healthy Child Wales Programme, which is being launched today to provide a framework of support for families during their children’s early years.
Meanwhile, a celebration event will be held this week in Blackburn for over 50 health visitors from across Lancashire who have successfully completed specialist UK government-recommended training and are now well placed to help families, especially in promoting the infant parent relationship.
Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, which provide health visiting services in Blackburn with Darwen, will also be using social media to share insights into “a day in the life of a health visitor”, share stories of families who have benefitted from services locally and highlight the fantastic joined-up working health visitors do with other children’s services.
To mark the week, North East Lincolnshire council’s health visitors and family hubs will be delivering information and support across the borough, inlcuding holding several drop-in sessions.