The reduction in the number of health visitors in England, House of Commons, 23 October 2019

The LGA has offered to work with the Department of Health and Social Care, the NHS and Health Education England to get the right number of training places commissioned and to deliver policies to ensure health visiting remains an attractive and valued career.


Key messages

  • Health visitors working in local government play a pivotal role in ensuring all children get the best possible start in life. Councils want to protect our world class health visiting service by attracting, training and keeping new essential workers.
  • The LGA has offered to work with the Department of Health and Social Care, the NHS and Health Education England to get the right number of training places commissioned and to deliver policies to ensure health visiting remains an attractive and valued career.
  • We are calling for a properly resourced, integrated workforce plan that underpins the current refresh of the Healthy Child Programme. In addition to ensuring we have a sufficient supply of specialist public health nurses, a workforce strategy should recognise the benefits of having a diverse range of health visiting, school nursing, children’s centre and other early years staff in children’s and health services. We believe that this will lead to better outcomes for children and families.
  • Since 2015 there has been a steady decline in the number of health visitors. This is largely due to qualified nurses retiring and moving to other roles, and too few trainees entering the profession.
  • The closure of the Health Visitors Implementation programme also reduced the number of new training places for health visitors. As a result, many local authorities have struggled to recruit and retain sufficient numbers and vacancy rates remain high. In March 2019 the LGA called for urgent investment in the health visiting workforce.
  • Councils have seen a significant reduction to their public health budgets in the period between 2015/16 and 2019/20. The recent announcement of a real-terms 1 per cent increase in the public health grant for 2020-21 is welcome, but is unlikely to address the impact of the past reductions to funding. We are calling for increased funding to support councils to deliver a refreshed and modernised Healthy Child Programme.

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The reduction in the number of health visitors in England, House of Commons, 23 October 2019