According to a recent survey, nearly a third of health visitors have caseloads topping 500, which is twice the recommended safe level set by the Institute of Health Visiting. 42 per cent also went on to say that they will soon have a possible “tragedy” on their hands due to a child slipping through the net because of overstretched health visitors.
The chief of the Institute of Health Visiting (IHV) Dr Cheryll Adams, said: “Unless cuts are stopped now, we’ll see a further reduction in health visitors and more negative outcomes for children.”
The number of health visitors has been dropping steadily since October 2015, with the number being cut by a quarter – from 10,309 to 7,852 – and the number of training places has dropped from 2,787 in 2013/14 to 448 last year.
Dr Cheryll Adams then went on to say: “Unless cuts are stopped now, we’ll see a further reduction in health visitors and more negative outcomes for children”
The IHV is the body which oversees trained nurses who visit new parents to offer support and pick up on possible signs of abuse. They are also required to carry out five mandatory checks – before birth, at birth, eight weeks after birth, after the first year of life and when the child is two-and-a-half. However, with these cuts and caseloads doubling, the health visitors are not always able to fully complete the checks required.
Many of these mandatory checks are being carried out by non-qualified staff and some are not even carried out at all. One in five families do not receive their mandatory one-year visit – and only one out of three of these families saw a qualified health visitor.
Dr Adams also said that the drop in health visitor numbers had coincided with increasing need, as more families plunge into poverty due to government austerity, with nearly 70 per cent of health visitors reporting an increase of food banks in the last two years and the quality of care fluctuating based on where you live.