The case for health visiting needs to be strongly made this autumn

Children Staffing
The progress made to boosting the health visiting profession in recent years is, once more, in jeopardy, so much so that 11 organisations, including Unite, wrote to The Times  calling on ‘the government to secure funding for health visiting services’.
The personal commitment to health visiting that was one of the few positive hallmarks of David Cameron’s premiership needs to be continued under the new government, otherwise there will be an adverse impact on families, children and the wider public health agenda.
A Unite survey of the responses of 565 health visitors in July revealed that health visiting is a demoralised, stressed-out workforce doing loads of unpaid overtime and facing cuts to the profession – at a time when their skills are needed more than ever.
Key Unite findings include:
  • 58 per cent of health visitors reported big increases in individual workloads compared with the previous year
  • 44 per cent of health visitors reported a slump in morale/motivation in their workplace, with 81 per cent pinpointing that drop coming from increased workplace stress
  • 70 per cent recorded ‘frequent’ staff shortages in their workplace in the last 12 months
  • 86 per cent say that they ‘always’ or ‘frequently’ work more than their contracted hours, with 71 per cent saying this means more than two hours each week and 31 per cent doing more than four.
  • 62 per cent said all their overtime was unpaid. 
The picture that clearly emerges is that health visiting is a profession under a great deal of pressure as health visitors juggle increasing demands for their vital services with diminishing resources and shrinking pay packets.
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 under serious threat.
The situation is further eroded by savage cuts to local government which now has the responsibility for health visiting budgets.
This whole sorry saga is compounded  by indications from health secretary Jeremy Hunt that he wants to keep a firm lid on NHS pay, the argument for a decent pay rise for the NHS workforce, which has seen their income in real terms drop by more than 15 per cent since 2010, is irrefutable.
Unite will campaigning strongly this autumn to make sure that the vast benefits that a robust health visiting service makes to the health of the nation remains at the top of the domestic political and health agendas.