Speaking at the Unite/CPHVA conference in Southport, Merseyside, on Wednesday, the health secretary passionately pledged ‘an end to the wilderness years for health visitors' but refused to make a promise on numbers.
Unite/CPHVA said that PCTs should start publishing figures immediately, and that an extra 8,000 health visitors are required to keep individual caseloads under 250. The health secretary's refusal to set central directions in terms of numbers or resources angered delegates.
He eventually won over delegates and CPHVA president Lord Victor Adebowale after taking questions for nearly an hour. He admitted: ‘It's probably a fair criticism that people like me have not paid enough attention to health visiting.'
The health secretary said his mind was ‘not closed' on the issue of an enhanced regulatory status for the profession, and announced £2m for multidisciplinary clinical leadership fellowships.
Unite/CPHVA and the DoH jointly launched the booklet ‘Getting it Right for Children and Families', which Mr Burnham said outlined ‘the first steps to reverse the decline in health visitor numbers.'