More men should be encouraged to become school nurses and health visiting should have a new “fast track” entry scheme, according to the union Unite.
The proposals are included in the union’s submission to the Prime Minister’s Commission on the Future of Nursing and Midwifery, in which it highlighted the continuing workforce problems in both health visiting and school nursing.
The number of new health visitors joining the register fell from 717 in 2004 to just 253 in 2008, while the NHS now employs fewer than 900 whole-time equivalent school nurses, according to Unite.
It said it was essential that the commission supported a new fast track route into health visiting, which would reduce the requirement to spend three years training as a nurse for potential health visitors. It suggested that this would appeal to mature entrants, and to those with degrees in subjects, such as psychology and life sciences.
Additionally, Unite said that one possible way to overcome the shortage of school nurses “would be to encourage more men to become school nurses, with the job role more clearly defined”.
Unite lead professional officer for policy and external affairs Obi Amadi said: “The picture is bleak. However, we have put forward a number of positive recommendations that would revitalise the health visiting and school nurse professions, at a time when the public is rightly concerned about child protection issues in the aftermath of the tragic case of Baby P.”
Should entry to health visiting be fast-tracked?