‘Less Vulnerable’ Families Could Lose Out In Health Visitor Changes

The Government’s proposed new model for health visiting has sparked fears that many families will be left without access to a health visitor. Children Now understands the Government is considering clarifying the roles of health visitors as part of an imminent shake-up of the profession. The roles could also apply to midwives and children’s nurses.

Ministers are reviewing the model, which will encourage commissioners to make decisions on how many health visitors to employ locally based on local need, in response to substantial cuts to health visitor jobs over the last 18 months.

It will also identify the key aspects of a health visitor’s job as: intensive parenting support; the initial checks and immunisations young children receive, known as the child health promotion programme; and public health and primary care. But health visitors fear the model will limit them to working with the most vulnerable, leaving families perceived as less vulnerable without proper cover.

Sarah Cowley, professor of community practice development at King’s College London and a member of the health visiting review working group, said: “If the changes are seen as part of a universal service that will be great, but if it’s seen as a replacement for the universal service I’d be quite worried.”

The Department of Health has emphasised it will continue to support the traditional role of health visitors to provide universal support to all families.

But Cheryll Adams, professional officer for the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, said the current financial climate means local health commissioners may still use the programme as a way to further scale down services. As a result, families not classed as vulnerable could lose out. She said: “While vulnerable families need support, any family may have needs.”