Unions claim that families are at risk as health visitor numbers fall

Health visitors are losing track of vulnerable families because they are overworked and there are too few of them, research has revealed.

A survey of 1,000 health visitors commissioned by Amicus/CPHVA found 55 per cent are making fewer visits to families and cutting routine development checks in a bid to cope with increased workloads.

Half of the respondents had responsibility for more than 300 children and 22 per cent took charge of more than 500. Nearly 80 per cent said their workload had increased.

The findings come after Amicus revealed a 40 per cent cut in the number of health visitors being trained in England this year (40% cut in health visitor training places - Independent Nurse, 19 Feb).

Cheryll Adams, Amicus Health lead professional officer warned the crisis would lead to problems such as mothers struggling with postnatal depression without professional help.

'Health visitors would like to have weekly contact with a new mother up to four of five weeks after [birth] but that's impossible,' she told Independent Nurse. 'Mothers are encouraged to attend clinics but if they become depressed they might not want to go.'

Ms Adams added that referrals to children and adolescent mental health services would rise because 'things would present late' and called on the government to request a 100 per cent increase in health visitor numbers for 2007/8 to ‘compensate' for reductions.

The DoH said that 329 health visitors are being trained this year and that the number was expected to rise next year.

Meanwhile the Family and Parenting Institute is campaigning to raise the voice of parents in the debate on the future of health visiting. A YouGov poll of 4,775 parents on behalf of the institute found 76 per cent wanted support and advice from a trained health visitor and 83 per cent wanted this advice at home.

 

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