Letters are being sent to thousands of former health visitors in a bid to boost recruitment efforts, amid claims from unions that the national plan to increase their numbers is faltering.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council announced today that it would be contacting health visitors with lapsed registrations during October to encourage them to return to practice. It forms part of the government’s programme, launched in February, to recruit an extra 4,200 health visitors by 2015.
However, the move comes amid warnings from unions that health visitor numbers are continuing to decline across the country.
Unite, which includes the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, claimed today that the national recruitment drive was faltering. It said figures from the NHS Information Centre showed seven out of the 10 strategic health authorities reporting a decline in the number of health visitors over the last year.
Unite lead professional officer Obi Amadi said: “Official figures have shown that the recruitment drive is faltering and the number of health visitors is actually falling in many parts of England, with London and the East of England being particularly hard hit.
“The government needs to consider ring-fencing health visitor budgets to meets its pledge. The government gave the SHAs an extra 3 per cent on top of baseline funding for health visitors, but it appears it hasn’t been used.”
The government’s health visitor strategy promised to recruit an extra 4,200 health visitors on top of 8,092 full time equivalents practising in England, as of May 2010.
A Department of Health spokesman said SHAs planned to train 1,818 health visitors in 2011, up from 545 the previous year. At 1 September they had filled 1,296 training places, and expected the 522 gap to be filled by another intake between January and March.
NHS North West, however, announced at the end of last month that it would be increasing its number of health visitor training posts due to concerns its original plans were insufficient to meet staffing needs.
The SHA has boosted training posts from 603 to 715 to meet the government’s recruitment drive after the DH raised questions about its original plan.
“DH modelling suggested that numbers of leavers would be greater than the [strategic health authority’s] estimates and that less newly trained HVs would work full time than SHA planning assumptions,” stated a report by the region’s chief nurse Jane Cummings.