Moving health visiting services to local government mu...

Moving health visiting services to local government must not be a ‘short term fix’, says Unite

22 August 2014

Concerns about plans to move the commissioning of health visiting services for children aged up to five-years-old from the NHS to local government in October 2015 have been raised by Unite, the country’s largest union.

Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, fears that because there is no medium to long term strategy to implement this proposal, it will just be a ‘quick fix’.

Unite’s concerns are reinforced by what happened when school nurses and their services were transferred to local councils in 2013, with the government claiming it had no power to safeguard this service.

According to the Department of Health, the ‘Healthy Child Programme’ regulations will mean that local councils will be legally obliged to provide ‘universal’ health visiting services, such as the new baby review and the assessments at six-to-eight weeks and at one year-old, and the review due between two and two-and-a-half years.

Unite head of health Rachael Maskell said: “Unite/CPHVA has called for the ‘Healthy Child Programme’ to be enshrined in law and while this is welcome, there remains the problem of short termism, especially as town halls are cash-strapped because of the government’s austerity programme.

“There is no medium-to-long term plan for supporting this service and therefore this is just a ‘quick fix’ and ‘plugging a gap’. This is not about providing a sustainable service in the interests of young children and their families.

“There also needs to be continual vigilance to ensure that health visiting is supported by the right number of health visitors – the CPHVA recommends each health visitor has a caseload of 250 families.”

Rachael Maskell said she expected that the CPHVA, as the lead professional organisation for health visitors and community nurses, to be fully involved in developing this programme, including drawing up the legislation.

For further information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940 and/or the Unite press office on 020 3371 2065.

Notes to editors: 

  • 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.