The Institute of Health Visiting very much welcomes the new NHS Long Term plan, in particular the new focus on investment into community and preventative services, and the commitment ‘….to consider whether there is a stronger role for the NHS in commissioning sexual health services, health visitors, and school nurses, and what best future commissioning arrangements might therefore be.’ (see NHS Long Term Plan page 33, 2.4).
Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, said:
“This can’t happen soon enough as we continue to see fragmentation of health visiting services and a loss of very experienced health visitors across the country. This has been accompanied by an inevitable impact on the quality of services that the profession can now provide for babies and their families, our most vulnerable members of society. We know that this is leading to increased use of GP and A&E services, an increase in the number of children needing safeguarding protection, and that far too many children are starting school without adequate communication as well as other delays in their development. All these cause much greater expenditure for the state than the cost of providing a robust health visiting service and it is very encouraging to see prevention recognised in the ‘Plan’.
“We hope that this statement is the first step towards providing proper protection for primary preventative services, such as health visiting and school nursing, into the future and beyond. A cycle of investment and disinvestment, as has happened over at least the last 25 years, must now become a thing of the past so that England can be proud of the support it offers young families. Furthermore, society will feel the benefit of this with babies suffering less mental illness, less heart disease and less cancer in their later lives. These are all things that are impacted by what can happen to babies during pregnancy and the first months of life such as poor nutrition and being exposed to a poor emotional environment.
“We also hope that pledges for maternity services, such as continuity of care, will also be invested in for those receiving health visiting services. No one wants to discuss their problems with a stranger – trusted professionals in the community, such as health visitors, can literally change lives when their help is sought.
“In addition, we are delighted by the significant attention which the plan gives to addressing health inequalities. This is something which health visitors and the Institute see as key to creating healthy communities, so it’s very encouraging to see it so well articulated in the ‘Plan’.
“Whilst the commissioning of health visiting services is being re-examined as recommended by the Institute in its 10 year plan (September 2018), we call for the strengthening of training commissions in 2019 as a visual demonstration of the commitment to the professional contribution of health visitors as laid out in the ‘Plan’. This would start to rebuild the profession to a place where its impact can be felt once again.”