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Official figures confirm health visitor target missed


Latest figures confirm that the government missed its target to recruit an extra 4,200 health visitors by the end of March, though community nurse leaders have hailed the rise in staff numbers.

The new figures confirm fears that the target might be missed, based on data revealed by Nursing Times in March and previous warnings from community nursing leaders.

The provisional figures from the Health and Social Care Information Centre reveal there were 12,077 whole-time equivalent health visitors in post in March. This is 3,985 more than in May 2010. 

However, the coalition’s pledge when it came to power in 2010 was to boost the numbers by 4,200 to 12,292 by 1 April 2015. It subsequently announced the Health Visitor Implementation Plan in 2011 in order to expand and strengthen health visiting services.  

“It is a great achievement, but disappointing that the big cities are where there are still big gaps”

Sarah Cowley

The pledge followed years of campaigning by health visitors that there numbers had been in decline for some time and, in many areas, there were not enough to offer all families the support they needed. 

Although the target was missed, the Institute of Health Visiting “warmly welcomed” the rise in staff numbers that had taken place nonetheless.

Dr Cheryll Adam, director of the institute, said: “’What a fantastic achievement this is, the beneficiaries will be children, families and communities up and down the country.”

Dame Sarah Cowley, emeritus professor at King’s College London and trustee of the institute, added: “The government missed their target of 4,200 health visitors, but only just – still an increase of 49.2% overall.

“It is a great achievement, but disappointing that the big cities – London, Birmingham, Manchester – are where there are still big gaps,” she said. 

There was only a 37% increase in London, although it needed 50%, and some other parts of the South also needed more than the 63% rise that they got. 

The institute said the challenge was now to maintain the momentum, especially during the “summer dip”.

It is to be “expected that there will be some slippage at this time of year”, noted the institute, as posts were left unfilled awaiting new students. 

It added that the new figures suggested nearly 7,000 students needed to be trained in order to get 4,000 health visitors in post, due to poor retention levels.

One of its current projects is seeking to identify what is needed to help keep trained health visitors in post.


Readers' comments (5)

  • When I began Health Visiting I was a G grade under Agenda for Change we were downbanded to a Band 6. Health Visitors are underpaid, undervalued and sufer high stress levels.
    I used to lie awake at night worrying about vulnerable children that Social Care wouldn't support as they did not meet the thresholds. No more I have reclaimed my life and left health visiting, I now sleep soundly at night.
    I wonder how long it will be before HV numbers fall again. Our children deserve better, so ensue the service is fully funded by ring fencing public health money to local councils

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  • Their commitment wasn't just for 4200 but this as a whole time equivalent so it's missed by more than that. Dispit significant investment by everyone. The outcome was very much a team effort delivered by service.

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  • Hi Gail. The extra 3985 are whole time equivalent, so really close to target - extraordinary effort by everyone concerned.

    Anon 0.09 is right - health visiting is a very hard job and has been very undervalued and undersupported in the past. In most places, the HVIP changed that for the better, but we still need even more health visitors to get good services to children and families.

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  • What has been achieved is fantastic and it has placed health visiting in a much better place to meet the needs of children, young people and families and to use their skills in early intervention and prevention more effectively. The numbers are not everything - just look at the new research around health visiting and its effectiveness and most importantly around the early years. But we cannot sit on our laurels - we need to keep the numbers up and increase them and the understanding of the excellent work that can be achieved through early intervention by the universal service of health visiting. It would be a disaster if the good work undertaken over the last five years was lost because the eye has been taken off the profession and the target is no longer there. Please all in government continue to realise how important a profession like health visiting and their colleague school nurses are in terms of long term prevention.

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  • This is nothing when one considers the abmismal state of the Care given to the Elderly in their own homes, 30 minutes twice a day is supposed to replace 24/7 care in a Nursing Home where Nurses are in charge all day and night 7 days a week. As in the case of children the LA and the CCG are hard selling this blatantly unworkable idea for all its worth under the banner "its what the Public want",
    I don't think so, check it out, criteriors have been adjusted by non-nursing staff so that less and less people are get NHS funding for Nursing Home placements and I thought that the NHS should be free and not means tested, didn't you ???

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