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Call for 'fast track' recruitment of health visitors and more male school nurses


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?

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Readers' comments (3)

  • I cannot believe that a fast track for men is being proposed? Why should men be given positive discrimination? I believe there is a shortage of Health Visitors generally so you need to recruit both women AND men. You are asking for trouble with inexperienced health visitors and potential child safety issues if you fast track training. We see far too much clinical inexperience coming out of nurse training so you will be addding to this inexperience if you fast track health visiting on top of this. Does the Union not take into account serious issues such as baby P etc?

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  • I am writing to xpress my thoughts about to separate issues. The first is about the Children's Minister referring Health Visitors as professionals who weigh babies. Yes! Health Visitors are competent in weighing babies, but they often delegate that role to Nursery Nurses or Clinic Assistants.It is preposterous to learn that a Children's Minister does not know about the roles of professionalsserving children. Evidently, the Minister has no clue about the role of Health Visitors and the significance of weighing babies.

    I believe that the Minister needs to read the Policy docments: The 'New NHS Modern Dependable' and 'Making a Difference to fully undersatnd the important role Health Visitors are doing in addition to weighing babies. Health Visitos weigh babies not out of fun, but to determine normality from abnormality. Secondly, it would be advisable for the Minister to retrospectively inform us whether Health Visitors only weighed her babies or indeed supported her in different ways. The Minister's parochial opinion is definitely a bird's eye view of what Health Visiting is. It is a view that is devoid of the family centred and public health role of health visitors, which does not show any regard, but an effontery to the professionalism of Health Visitors.

    Secondly, I support the idea to encourage more male professionals to join the Heath Visiting and School Nursing profession. Male Health Visitors & School Nurses can be very important in eeting the needs offamilies with children. It is not strange to belive that in some homes, men play a significant role in making decisions about accessing health services. This is especially true within Minority Groups families. In this case, I can see Male Health Visitors and School Nurses realting better with these men in planning and making decisions to access healthvare service provision. Let's be honest, how many times have male Health Visitors or School Nurses been allocated families that are labelled as being difficult? How many times have male Heath Visitors and School Nurses been asked to escort their female colleagues? Does this not clearly manifests that male professional have an important role in improving community and public and health?

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  • Personally I would not be comfortable as a new mum having a male health visitor assisting me to breast feed/express milk, discussing contraception etc.

    I wonder how many men would be happy for a male health visitor to be alone with their wife and baby while they are at work? I can envisage this causing relationship problems.

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