Government boost needed for health visiting to maintai...

Government boost needed for health visiting to maintain public health goals, says Unite

16 August 2016
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.

This is the conclusion of a survey carried out by Unite, the country’s largest union, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA).

The union’s ‘wake-up’ call to Theresa May’s new government comes on the day that 11 organisations, including Unite, wrote to the Times calling on ‘the government to secure funding for health visiting services, and protect their fundamental contribution to health care in the UK’.  

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. 

Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “The picture that clearly emerges is that health visiting is a profession under a great deal of stress as health visitors juggle increasing demands on their vital services with decreasing resources and contracting 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 jeopardised with all the adverse impact this would have on families, children and the wider public health agenda.

“The situation is further eroded by savage cuts to local government which now has the responsibility for health visiting budgets.

“Despite 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, is irrefutable. This health visitor survey strongly reinforces this case.” 

In the Times letter, the 11 organisations said: “The loss of health visitor posts could have irredeemable consequences for children and families, while stunting the progress of several key government priorities; from reducing the dangerous levels of obesity and mental health issues – in children and adults – to promoting social inclusion.
“Any money saved by reducing health visitors would simply be eclipsed by the resulting added pressure on the NHS.”
Notes to editors:
The Unite statistics are based on the responses of 565 health visitors in July 2016.
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: 
  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.