Health visitor cuts fuel inequalities

Record investment in the NHS over the last decade has failed to cut health inequalities because health visitor-led services have been allowed to erode, union leaders have warned.

Evidence submitted by Unite for a health select committee investigation into the NHS's contribution to reducing health inequalities says that health visitor numbers are at their lowest for 13 years. It adds that there have been 40 per cent cuts in the number of health visitors trained in the last two years.

A ‘steady erosion of services health visitors once offered' over the last 15 years has been compounded by a series of factors, the evidence says. Unite highlights ‘the loss of a specific training council in the early 1990s; the removal of protection for this professional role in statute in 2001; the introduction of grade mix into the delivery of a very complex role; and a subsequent reduction of skilled health visitors, which we know has contributed to a weakening of their contribution to reducing inequalities.'

‘To invest in health visiting and hence early intervention could produce massive savings to other areas of government expenditure related to inequalities in the longer term,' the Unite evidence says.

nick.bostock@haymarket.com

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