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Call to legally protect 'health visitor' title


The union Unite, which includes the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, has launched a campaign to legally protect the title “health visitor”.

The union wants the title recognised in law as it was until 2001. It argues that without this legal protection less qualified staff can take on health visiting duties, meaning the public is less protected.

The union says that the change in legal status has made it easier for primary care trusts to cut back on health visitors and employ less qualified staff. There has been a 13.5 per cent drop in health visitors in England in the last four years, according to the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care.   

Unite lead professional officer Obi Amadi said: “This campaign is not about legal complexities, but restoring the status of a 150-year old profession, so that the public is protected and the important health visiting services to communities and families are restored.

“Less well-qualified staff could, in certain circumstances, be less able to detect concerns at an early stage.”


Readers' comments (4)

  • It's about time health visitors, and the roles they carry out, start to get the respect they deserve. This sounds like a step in the right direction at least.

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  • Why did we train as Health Visitors in the first place and undergo extensive training at a higher level than we originally trained at if they are then go and replace us with other staff! The vast majority of Health Visitors (like other nurses) work through their lunch breaks with no thanks whatso ever and spend a large amount of our time entering information via programs (such as Lorenzo) when we could be out visiting more clients! Lorenzo is nothing less than time and motion, and the main reason I am thinking of leaving the profession altogether! There aren't enough health visitors to fill the post that have been advertised - doesn't that tell you something, and the vast majority are just waiting to retire ( and I don't blame them). Gordon Brown is a waste of space for the vast majority of nurses and the nursing profession and the NHS has gone down over the last 12 years or so due to Labour, their stupid and often inappropriate targets.

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  • Malcolm Chalk BA, RN

    I do think though, that many community nurses are more than capable of carrying out 'health visitor' duties; especially those nurses that have had university based education. Public health and social science is now a very big part of nurse academic training and placements for students nearly always incorporate more than one community placement, reflecting the importance of the vast variety of social problems nurses encounter within families as much as their clinical problems.

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  • Mr Chalk's comments seem to illustrate the sheer lack of understanding among nurses that health visiting is not just 'nursing in another place' but a different profession with its own body of knowledge. This insight problem means that the comments could also extend to basic degree qualified nurses replacing GPs, CPNs, midwives, learning disability nurses or community children's nurses working with disabled children. It might also solve the shortage of child protection social workers... all on a couple of weeks of pre-reg community placement.

    If this kind of comment represents the level of understanding among our nursing colleagues, no wonder they thought it wouldn't make a difference to services and public safety if they abolished the health visiting register.

    I've been on the nursing register/s since 1975 and I hold a Master's degree in nursing alongside other degrees. I WAS a registered health visitor, but now my practice can only be registered as a general nurse and I'm judged by general nurses without appropriate qualifications. It makes a mockery of any commitment to public protection and safe practice.

    When we regulate health visiting properly in statute we can ensure people are protected from unqualified staff. Good for Unite!

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