Today the Government is announcing a national recruitment to create 4,200 new health visitors. This will mean an increase of almost 50% in the number of health visitors working closely with families in the community.
This decision, Public Health Minister Anne Milton has confirmed, is intended to build a rejuvenated profession after its dramatic erosion over the last decade. This will be achieved by supporting the new health visitor positions with an improved training programme, a focus on recruitment and retention of workers and creating a new vision and identity for the profession.
Health visitors factor quite largely into the Government’s future healthcare plans. They are seen as working at the front line in young families’ homes, occupying a unique position that allows them to help prevent illness and injury, to get children the best start in life and to ensure that the support of the wider community is at hand for the families who need it.
The Unite Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) recently launched the new SAFER referral tool to be used by health visitors, which “will improve communications between key health and protection agencies and support us in making our children safer”, said Chief Nursing Officer Christine Beasley. This will be especially important for families that are vulnerable and have complex needs.
The Government has yet to announce the project’s budget. CPHVA National Officer for Health Karen Reay worries that the UK’s social problems will still swamp health visitors, despite the increased numbers.