Hello and welcome to the May blog and news update!
This month we’d like to reflect on impact of the decline in health visitor numbers in the last 12 months on women and families*.
Reduction in health visitor & school nurse numbers
The number of full-time equivalent health visitors and school nurses has been reduced, as reported in Children and Young People Now (full story here). This is concerning as this very shortly follows the health visitor implementation plan (a campaign to raise health visitor numbers by 50% or 2,400 health visitors) that was run between 2010-2015. Indeed, it has been reported that 70% of pregnant women do not receive the mandatory antenatal contacts from their health visitor. Following cuts to health visiting, there has been a reported rise in workload, which could put women, young people, and entire families at risk of losing out on invaluable support from their health visitor.
Health visitors’ response
Understandably, the threat of increasing cuts to the service has led to a response from health visitors, including the Institute of Health Visiting (Press release here), where the negative impact of cuts to services have been highlighted. This includes a reduction in health visitors’ ability to provide vital safeguarding support, as well as health visitors having to take on larger caseloads which can affect practitioner safety and performance. Other health visitors have taken to social media and news outlets to express their concerns regarding cuts to the service – we recommend reading the following articles:
- Health visitors aren’t valued but we do more than just weigh babies – The Guardian, 31st October 2016
- So… – Jen the HV, 22nd April 2017
- Health visitor cuts put kids at risk – I’m terrified there’ll be another Baby P: My Wigan Pier Story
– Su Lowe, 20th March 2017
We echo issues raised in these reports and (social) media posts, and acknowledge the role that health visitors play in preventing illness and promoting health. For example, health visitors provide immunisation support, providing parents with evidence-based advice in a non-judgemental way. They also play a role in child protection and safeguarding, and help vulnerable families access support to social/community services. Our research shows that health visitors are professionals committed to delivering a high-quality service, and have a wide set of skills to offer to mothers and their families, including breastfeeding, and mental health support. As mentioned, cuts to the service pose a risk to families’ health, and in light of this, local authorities should reconsider their proposed cuts for 2017.
*Views expressed in this blog post are solely of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views, position, or policies of the University.
We are thrilled to announce that our abstract has been accepted for an oral presentation at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference. Ryc will be presenting the findings from the interview study with midwives and health visitors in September. Again we wish to express our thanks to all those who have participated in this study – we will of course update you in a future blog post on our findings.
In addition, we are busy writing journal papers and more conference abstracts, to start disseminating our study findings. More information on all of this will follow in due course.
As ever, we would love to hear from you! Let us know what you think of our blog post, or ask us any questions regarding the COPE project via firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Team COPE