UK Government

Department of Health (National) : 4,200 new health visitors to boost young children's and families' health and wellbeing

Press Release   •   Oct 22, 2010 11:40 BST

Thousands more families will benefit from an increased number of health visitors who give advice and support and play an important role in safeguarding children, Public Health Minister Anne Milton confirmed today.

A national recruitment drive to create 4,200 new health visitors and build a rejuvenated profession is being announced today. This means the numbers of health visitors working closely with families in the community will increase by almost 50 per cent.

Creating a new modern health visiting profession will be achieved by:

* creating 4,200 new health visitor positions;
* a new improved training programme;
* a focus on recruiting and retaining workers; and
* creating a new vision and identity for the profession.

Anne Milton, said:

"Health visitors play such an important role. They give support and advice to families and can make a huge difference to the lives of children.

"The health visiting profession has been eroded dramatically over the past decade. That's why we are funding 4,200 new posts and improving training.

"We need to attract new people into the profession and to keep the health visitors we have. We will fund a national recruitment drive that will show the vital work health visitors do in supporting families and boosting public health.

"Investing in health visitors is investing in the future health and well being of our children, families and communities."

This commitment is a mark of how central health visitors will be in the Government's future plans. Health visitors, working at the front line in young families' homes, are in a unique position to help:

* prevent illness and injury;
* children get the best start in life; and
* ensure wider community support is at hand for families who need it.

Over the past 25 years society and families have changed. There are now more families with complex needs and health visitors need to be able to respond to these changes. As well as the traditional aspect of the role, giving advice and support to new mothers, health visitors also have an important role in safeguarding children and referring onto specialist services.

To ensure the process of referrals is as easy and smooth as possible a new SAFER referral tool has been developed and is being launched today at the Unite Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association conference.

Chief Nursing Officer, Chris Beasley, said:

"This new SAFER referral tool will improve communications between key health and protection agencies and support us in making our children safer.

"We have worked closely with health visitors to develop this new way of working to ensure referrals to specialist services work better for families that are vulnerable and have complex needs.

"By working together we can move health visiting in a very exciting direction and make an even bigger difference to family health and well being."

Notes to Editors

1. Anne Milton was speaking at the Unite Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) conference today in Harrogate.

2. The commitment to fund 4,200 new health visitors was confirmed in the Spending Review. The level of funding will be announced in due course.

3. The SAFER tool has been developed using the Situation-Background-Assessment-Recommendation technique widely used by health care teams.

4. It will provide all health visitors with a standardised framework to refer children quickly and effectively who are, or maybe, at significant risk to a social care children's team. It will help health visitors make a critical decision more easily and in a more focused manner. It will set out what needs to be communicated and how to social care colleagues. It will support health visitors in what can be stressful and emotional situations.

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