The Department of Health says it is seeking to attract more men and people from mixed ethnic backgrounds into health visiting, as part of the national recruitment drive.
The overwhelming majority of health visitors are white, female and approaching retirement, according to a DH equality analysis of the health visiting workforce in England.
The research, published this week, is intended to inform the government’s ongoing Health Visitor Implementation Plan. The national strategy was published in February 2011 and set the aim of boosting the health visitor workforce by an extra 4,200 by 2015.
As of September 2010, there were 9,995 female health visitors and only 101 males, meaning “approximately 99% of health visitors” were women, the DH analysis said.
“This ratio of male to female health visitors is seen across all strategic health authorities,” it added. “Only registered midwives have a lower ratio of male to female staff with 99.6% of the workforce female in September 2010.”
The report said the DH needed to “ensure that recruitment to the profession targets all eligible individuals, regardless of sex”.
“As part of a national recruitment drive to attract nurses to the profession, we are working with marketing colleagues to mitigate the low proportion of males in the workforce, including use of materials that include case studies from existing male health visitors,” it said.
In addition, it said nationally, around 85% of health visitors were white. However, compared to other nursing professions, health visiting had proportionately higher numbers of staff from ethnic groups other than white, the DH report said.
This pattern was seen across all regions except London, which had a “significantly higher proportion” of health visitors who were black or black British.
The report said 34% of the health visiting workforce in London was black, or black British, and 52% was white.
“We are working with marketing colleagues to encourage nurses from mixed ethnic backgrounds to join the health visitor workforce,” the report said.
The age profile of health visitors shows that the majority were between 45-54 years old, it added.