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No 'dumbing down' for health visitor expansion, says Milton

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Health minister Anne Milton has insisted there will be no “dumbing down” in the training of the 4,200 extra health visitors the government plans to recruit.

Ms Milton told Nursing Times the new recruits would be “health visitors as we know health visitors” in terms of training and pay.

She said: “We are considering different ways of people getting that qualification but there are no plans at the moment to change training. We are looking at things like distance learning.”

But she stressed: “There will be no new halfway house health visitor.”

Concerns had been expressed by the Royal College of Nursing and others that the government would lower entry requirements to the health visitor profession to increase the workforce by a target of 4,200 by 2015.

Now, nurses must get additional training and certification before becoming a health visitor to gain competencies around prescribing, public health and working alone in the community.

RCN chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter last month told Nursing Times: “We think it’s a great thing if we can get 4,000 new health visitors. But we’re talking with the government and wanting to ensure we don’t dumb down the standards.”

Ms Milton appeared to rule out letting hospital nurses qualify as health visitors through an accredited prior learning model or on the job training.

She was less clear on which organisations would employ the new staff, but said the government would not be “prescriptive”.

She added: “I envisage them being part of the NHS service providers” - rather than working for local authorities - and said commissioning details were being worked on “at the moment”.

Ms Milton reaffirmed the coalition’s commitment to hit its target of having 4,200 more health visitors in post by 2015.

The Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, part of the union Unite, claimed Ms Milton’s commitment, made at its conference in Harrogate last week, as a victory for their campaign to reverse the decline in numbers.

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