Department of Health-commissioned review calls for health visitors to focus on most needy

Health visitors should be working intensively with families who need the most help, according to a Department of Health-commissioned review, published on Friday.

The report suggests health visitors’ roles should be bolstered with a focus on delivering more support to disadvantaged families and a leadership role in the government’s child health promotion programme.

The former recommendation reflects the key role given to health visitors in the government’s plans to focus intensive support on babies and toddlers in the most deprived families, which are being piloted.

Royal College of Nursing policy officer Jane Naish said the clear direction should place health visitors higher up on primary care trust agendas. Health visitor numbers have been eroded by 4% overall in the last year as part of NHS cutbacks, she said.

Naish added the proposals would require health visitor funding being focused on more deprived areas.

She said: “Health visitor posts have never been allocated to trusts on a basis of social deprivation. Inevitably, in some areas their services are spread thinly. It isn’t implicit in the report, but PCTs will have to look at their numbers if they are to carry out these recommendations.”

The government will publish a response on how it will take the recommendations forward in the autumn.

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