There can be ‘no backsliding’ on the number of visits that babies and young children in England can expect from their health visitor, Unite, the country’s largest union, warned today (Tuesday 21 February).
Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), is calling for the current requirement for five health visitor ‘mandated’ visits, to be renewed by the end of next month, to continue; with an extra - and sixth - visit when the baby is about three-to-four months old.
It is expected that the public health minister Nicola Blackwood will be making an announcement on ‘mandating’ this week.
Unite’s concern is underlined by the fact health visiting budgets now come under cash-strapped local authorities. The public health budgets are, in theory, ringfenced, but what constitutes ‘public health’ is open to interpretation.
Unite lead professional officer Obi Amadi said: “There can be no compromise on the health of new born babies and young children – and there should be no backsliding by ministers on the number of mandated visits.”
Unite contrasted the English figure with Scotland, where they have eleven such visits. Wales has also five in its healthy child Wales programme. In Northern Ireland, there was a merger of health and local authority functions many years ago and it does not face the same financial pressures as England.
Obi Amadi added: “Mandation has been used to help monitor and maintain service delivery. Collection of this information could cease at the end of March 2017, unless parliamentary action is taken.
“The regulations state that there is a review of its effectiveness. This took place last summer and a report with recommendations has been on the minister’s desk since the autumn.
“The transfer of health visiting services to financially challenged local authorities in October 2015 has had a significant adverse impact on services which have been cut in many areas leaving families, uncertain and worried.
“Unite says, at the very least, five mandated contacts with families by fully-qualified health visitors need to continue to improve the outcomes of and promote the health and well-being of babies and young children in England.
“We would argue that a sixth visit needs to be introduced at three-to-four months to reinforce immunisation messages, support continued breastfeeding, prepare for good weaning and nutrition and give accident prevention advice, as well as supporting maternal and child mental health.”
Notes to editors:
For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- 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.