Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Health minister 'disappointed' over falling health visitor numbers


Public health minister Anne Milton has admitted she is “disappointed” by recent figures suggesting a decline in the number of health visitors working in England.

Data from the NHS Information Centre showed number had fallen in seven out of the 10 strategic health authority regions over the past year.

Last week Nursing Times revealed at least part of the decline is due to SHAs and primary care trusts including qualified health visitors not working in clinical posts or non health visitors working as health visitors.  The Department of Health is conducting a “data cleansing” exercise to identify the true figure.

In a speech to the Unite Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association Conference former district nurse Ms Milton said achieving the government’s ambition of having an extra 4,200 health visitors in post by 2015 would be “slow and laborious”.

She said: “I was really disappointed at the recent figures showing less health visitors than we hoped… I am under no illusion that we definitely need to work harder with the SHAs and PCTs to get more health visitors on the ground.”

Ms Milton told delegates at the she had been “assured” that jobs would be available for the 1,300 nurses beginning health visiting courses this year.

Asked by a delegate how she could be sure the drive to fund more health visitors would not mean the loss of other community nursing posts, Ms Milton accepted the public sector plays “games” but said the NHS Commissioning Board, which will be responsible for commissioning posts from 2013 until 2015, would be “pivotal” in making sure that didn’t happen.

Ms Milton was also asked about plans to increase contributions to the NHS pension and expect staff to work longer.

She said: “Nobody’s attacking pensions… all existing pension contributions and rates will be maintained. There is negotiation going on.”

However, speaking to Nursing Times after the speech, Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail, who has been involved in pension talks with the government, said the minister had revealed her “distance from the issues” of both pensions and health visitor numbers.

She added: “The government haven’t moved one millimetre [on pension negotiations]… It feels like an ideological attack.”


Readers' comments (3)

  • Well if Anne Milton is so disappointed, maybe she can sort out the crap pay, poor working conditions etc which is keeping those numbers low? While she is at it, perhaps she could sort out the same conditions which are affecting Nursing before she is disappointed by low levels of Nurses in the future!

    It sounds like she doesn't have a damn clue!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I'm sceptical. Non-ringfenced funding goes straight to whatever trusts happen to find a local priority. Right now, it's redundancies, not building services!

    I'm also confident that trusts are continuing to appoint cheap HCSWs and NNEBs and dress their figures to look like compliance with HV increases.

    Somebody needs to teach this minister to be more street smart.

    Pensions as an ideological attack? It sounds more like a case of innumeracy to me. Look at the figures!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Liz Fletcher

    Southampton has an excellent reputation both at home and around the world for being an excellent centre for learning and research.

    Health Sciences Dean Jessica Corner said: “I believe we're developing the top clinical leaders and first class practitioners of the future.”

    To learn more about the MSc masters in Public Health practice at the University of Southampton, simply visit the Health Sciences website at
    To learn more about the MSc masters in Public Health practice at the University of Southampton, simply visit the Health Sciences website at

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions. Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.