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Nursery nurses recruited to join health visitor teams

  • 6 Comments

More nursery nurses and healthcare support workers could be recruited to health visiting teams to increase capacity and improve retention rates in the profession, Nursing Times has learnt.

The idea is one of a number being explored by the Department of Health to meet its commitment to increase health visitor numbers by 4,200 over the next four years.

Many hospital nurses who apply for health visiting courses are unsuccessful because they have not had the preparation or information to understand what the job is about

A draft version of its Health Visitor Implementation Strategy 2011-2015 - seen by Nursing Times - calls for a “comprehensive programme of action to increase entry and retention, scaling up current training plans and capacity, and looking rapidly at scope for more flexible training routes to achieve health visitor qualification”.

The document reveals the DH is to explore the feasibility of conversion courses for related professions, while the Nursing and Midwifery Council has been asked to review entry requirements for the third part of the register, which covers specialist community public health nurses, including health visitors.

Royal College of Nursing primary care adviser Lynn Young, who has been working with the DH on the strategy, told Nursing Times that ideas being considered included offering health visiting experience to registered nurses, and reorganising more health visitors into teams with nursery nurses and healthcare support workers.

Unite’s lead professional officer Obi Amadi said giving people the opportunity to gain experience in a health visiting team would improve success rates for applying to courses.

She said: “Many hospital nurses who apply for health visiting courses are unsuccessful because they have not had the preparation or information to understand what the job is about.”

Nursing unions and others have raised concerns that the drive to increase health visitor numbers would lead to a downgrading of the profession and the introduction of direct entry courses, which means that students could train as health visitors without first needing to qualify as a nurse or midwife.

However, an NMC spokeswoman told Nursing Times that direct entry courses would not be considered as part of its review, and entry standards for the register would remain the same.

Instead, it would be looking at how higher education institutions could be encouraged to provide more nursing course modules relevant to health visiting to boost entry to the profession.

The spokeswoman said: “We are working with educators to find areas of flexibility within their programmes that will allow people to gain the knowledge and skills needed in order to gain entry to the specialist community public health nursing part of the register.”

Matthew Hamilton, director of policy at the Council of Deans of Health, told Nursing Times the flexibility would come through increasing “accredited prior experiential learning” (APEL), where nurses who have experience of working in the community could receive credits towards their registration.

He said: “It’s up to the academic institution how much weight they place on that. It has been allowed before but it’s being made absolutely crystal clear [to academic institutions] that that will be the case. This is quite a sea change in terms of numbers.”

Ms Amadi raised a note of caution: “I have no problem with them promoting APEL more widely but absolutely no way should the requirement or standard for APEL be lowered.”

Described as “a call to action”, the DH strategy includes plans to provide opportunities for leadership development and talks about mobilising health visitors to inspire others to join the profession as well as running a year-long recruitment drive starting this autumn.

Health visitors will be commissioned centrally until 2015-16 when councils will take over responsibility.

Do you want your voice to be heard? Make a difference today and sign our ‘seat on the board’ petition to get nurses actively involved in the new commissioning consortia.

  • 6 Comments

Readers' comments (6)

  • Nothing new there then. There have been nursery nurses in health visiting teams for at least 10 years, but they cannot access health visitor training. Flexible routes to training available for longer, although some were lost when nursing gained its stranglehold over the training in the 1990s. Three problems (1) the lack of awareness and acceptance by managers seconding staff of the current range of flexibilities (2) the mistaken belief that nursing experience is the ONLY base from which to develop the different skills needed for health visiting. Pure professional protectionism, that; yes, nursing is a good base, but not the only possible on and (3) the mistaken belief that nursing control of health visiting education improves it. Nursing control led to removal the health visiting register, reducing the length of training in the 1990s, compromising the content in 2004 and aims to substitute staff nurse posts for health visitor ones. Professional (nursing) pride is more important than quality of service to children and families, and will do nothing to improve recruitment or standards.

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  • No 'dumbing down' for health visitor expansion, says Milton oct 2010

    Good to see politician are yet again giving out the wrong reasuring messages!!!!!!!

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  • It is worrying that the DOH is 'exploring' the use of nursery nurses in HV teams, when, as annsey (above) says they have been working with HVs for a long time. Staff Nurses have been working in HV teams for many years too and many have successfully gone on to train as HVS.

    If the Nursing Times is reporting this correctly then how can the review be valid if the DOH don't know what currently exists?

    I believe that nursing and midwifery are the right background for health visiting and I disagree with annsey that professional nursing pride prevents good care to families and children.

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  • I HAVE A SERIOUS CONCERN , IN A CLINIC I VISITED THERE WERE MEDICAL ASSISTANCE ADMINISTERING MEDICATIONS. WHEN DID THIS START HAPPENNING ? THEY DONT HAVE A LICENSE TO PASS MEDICATIONS NOR DO THEY UNDERSTAND WHAT TO DO IF AN ADVERSE REACTION OCCURS. THEY ARE EVEN ADMINISTERING IM MEDS. THIS IS DANGEROUS TO THE PUBLIC AND SOMETHING HAS TO BE DONE. THERE ARE LIMITS TO WHAT AN RN CAN ADMINISTER AND THEY HAVE MA'S GIVING MEDS. PLS SOMEBODY HELP

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  • Depends on the medication.
    Shockingly there are unqualified people giving medication to patients all over the UK.
    To wit: parents / relatives / even patients themselves.

    If we can train parents to do TPN / IV therapy etc then we can surely teach other members of the team - even if they haven't sat in large numbers of lectures given by a lecturer whohasn't touched a patient for a decade or so....

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  • As one of the first Community Nursery Nurses' (CNN) working alongside Health Visitors, I can confirm that we have been working in the service for the past two decades. The first initiative of this kind started in Birmingham. It is one of the longest 'apprenticeships' in the NHS. Many CNNs enter with or acquire degree level qualifications in health related subjects, that they study for and fund privately simply because there is nothing available for them. This is a discrimatory situation; if you are a nurse you count, and if not, you don't, no matter how consciencious you are. The CPHVA and NMC are politically motivated and as such what is in the best interest of nurses overides any other consideration and that includes patient care, despite all the rhetoric.

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