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Continued decline in health visitor numbers

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Eight out of 10 English regions have been given increased targets for health visitor recruitment after the workforce continued to decline.

The Department of Health wants an extra 4,200 health visitors in post by 2015 on top of May 2010 levels when it was recorded there were 8,092 whole time equivalents working in England - nearly 400 above the current level.

Last month Nursing Times reported the department had discovered non-practicing health visitors employed by community service providers and members of health visiting teams not on part three of the register for specialist community public health nurses had been counted in the initial numbers, making them appear artificially high.

A combination of this miscounting and a continuing exodus from the profession saw the number of full time equivalent health visitors fall to 7,714 by July 2011, according to the DH annual report into its health visitor strategy.

This means almost 4,600 health visitor posts are needed to meet the target which was developed based on population need.

East of England’s target has increased by 29%, the South West by 22% and London and the North West both by 14%.

Only the North East appears to have made progress against the target, with an additional 84 health visitors in post between May 2010 and July 2011.

South East Coast’s target has been increased by 10% and the West Midlands by 3%.

Data for Yorkshire and the Humber, East Midlands and South Central is complicated by the fact they have lost or acquired areas as primary care trusts have joined together into clusters.

Unite lead professional officer Obi Amadi said she was “heartened” that there were an extra 1,200 training places this year but worried about the “will and ability” of SHAs to fund future training places.

She added: ‘We sincerely hope that the profession has reached the nadir in terms of numbers.”

  • 2 Comments

Readers' comments (2)

  • Well, surprise surprise!
    Figures massaged again.
    I bet managers with a HV qualification and Nurses in Public Health teams were all included by some nefarious means to make numbers look better. I think that the Heads of Services should be ashamed of themselves. They are selling the HV profession down the river. Diluting the service with Staff Nurse and Community Nursery Nurses instead of these staff supporting the HV teams. Lets face it, they are doing the HV job for a pittance and the responsibility for this delegated wirk is put onto the HV. Whenever did the Head of Service take resposibility - Never in my experience!
    Where I am currently working the safeguarding is enormous, but instead of ensuring preventative work is done (by having enough staff to do it) , the staff are left working in a reactive manner - this gets into a viscious circle - hence no prevention and children not getting the best outcomes in life.

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  • Should we ever be allowed to work "upstream" by preventative support of families then we would provide (in my opinion) a huge saving for the NHS. Supporting families as we were trained to do we could help mums who are begining to become depressed and also further assist them with breastfeeding - which research has shown would reduce admissions for gastroenteritis etc and prove a cost cutting strategy in the long run. Why would I want a staff nurse to perform my EPDS's when I was the one who met a new mum in the first place!! obviously it should be me that then compares the two visits in order to establish whether that mum's mental health had deteriated, and dont even get me started on Surestart. If the money that was thrown at Surestart (without its services being audited properly for years) had been put into health visiting in the first place we wouldnt need to start alll over again with this nonsense. The audit office researched this and found that Surestart doesnt hit the target audience it was first given!! Why someone who has had a few weeks training in parts of my job would think they are then better at doing that job than myself I will never know!! Sorry about the rant but the whole thing is so frustrating

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