Health visiting should separate from the nursing family, says UKPHA

The UK Public Health Association (UKPHA) has questioned whether health visiting should remain part of the nursing family.

Health visiting has suffered from its link to clinical nursing
Health visiting has suffered from its link to clinical nursing

It comes in a draft report, shortly to be released for discussion, designed to mark the establishment of the association's special interest group for health visiting and public health.

It also coincides with the current chief nursing officer's review of health visiting.

Angela Mawle, chief executive of UKPHA and a former health visitor, says the field of health visiting has been narrowed by being aligned with clinical-based nursing and categorised within public health nursing in the NMC register.

The draft report states that although health visitors have felt ‘accepted and secure' as part of the nursing family, developments over the past century have degraded its role, which is based on health, not illness.

It points out that health visitors provide a universal and non-stigmatising service that tackles health inequalities but does not necessarily deliver individualised, hands-on nursing care.

The real outcomes for health visiting and public health are longer term and inter-generational, it says. Yet, all too often, only short-term outcomes are measured, such as breastfeeding prevalence and immunisations.

Locating health visitors within PCTs, rather than local authorities, means health visitors working from GPs' surgeries are often asked to focus on practice targets or perform tasks other nurses are able to do.

As a result, when money is tight health visitors are seen as expendable. The report says the profession itself has resorted to playing up its child protection role as a means of safeguarding its position, but this has resulted in a further narrowing of the health-visiting role.

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