The majority of respondents to a government survey on whether it should continue to be a statutory requirement for health visitors to carry out five checks on young children want the legislation to continue beyond the spring, Nursing Times understands.
The legal requirement was introduced when local authorities took over responsibility for commissioning health visiting services from the NHS in October 2015, but is due to expire at the end of March 2017.
“We know from our survey that the majority want mandated visits to continue”
It was designed to ensure the recent boost to health visitor numbers – following a Conservative party pledge to increase the size of the workforce by almost 50% – was maintained after commissioning transferred.
Over the summer, Public Health England was commissioned by the Department of Health to review the effectiveness of the legislation, which requires health visitors to carry out checks during the antenatal period, in the first two weeks of birth, eight weeks after birth, at 12 months, and when the child reaches two and a half years old.
PHE wrote to council leaders and chief executives, directors of public health, clinical commissioning groups, NHS England’s regional lead nurses and health visitors encouraging them to contribute to a survey as part of the review.
Nursing Times understands the majority of respondents to the survey want the checks to continue to be mandated, while there was also strong support for a statutory requirement of more than five checks.
PHE said it was unable to comment on the survey findings, as its report had not yet been approved. It is due to submit the report to the DH in the coming weeks, before a decision is made by ministers about whether to continue with the legislation.
Obi Amadi, Unite
The union Unite, which includes the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, said there was a “strong case” for keeping the mandated checks and for increasing them beyond five, because it was sometimes being seen as a maximum standard rather than minimum.
“We know from Unite’s survey of its members that the majority want mandated visits to continue and that people are keen to have more than five mandated checks,” said Obi Amadi, the union’s lead professional officer for strategy policy and equality.
“There is a strong case for keeping the visits as, among other things like universal provision, it should be one of the measures we have in terms of how effective the service is,” she added.