Monday, 22 August 2016

Health visiting should be properly funded

I am sorry to see that the health visiting profession appears to be coming under renewed pressure. A survey of health visitors by Unite, published this month, found that:
  • Nearly 60 % reported big increases in individual workloads during the last year
  • 44 % reported a drop in morale, most attributing that to increased workplace stress
  • 70 % reported ‘frequent’ staff shortages in the last 12 months
  • More than 85% reported that they work more than their contracted hours
  • More than 60% said that their overtime was unpaid 

Despite a long and distinguished history of playing a central role in children’s health, welfare and development, health visiting services in England suffered unjustifiable reductions in the early years of the 21st Century which were reversed to some extent following 2010.

The service provides essential professional contact with pre-school children, facilitating advice and support for families and surveillance of child health.

Now, however, it seems that the service is not keeping pace with continued high demand. Unite’s Sarah Carpenter is reported as saying:

“Ministers need to wake-up to the fact that the progress made by the last government with the Health Visitor Implementation Plan, which boosted the workforce by more than 4,000, could be jeopardised with all the adverse impact this would have on families, children and the wider public health agenda.”

Health visiting should not be underfunded. Essential contact with some young families under stress will be lost if health visitors are over-stretched, putting children at greater risk. As the coalition government realised in 2010, a sensible, justifiable and effective universal service should not be a target for quick-fix savings. The present government needs to realise that before it is too late.