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GPs criticise health visitor plans

Employing new health visitors exclusively in Sure Start children's centres will not help to solve the communication crisis currently facing GPs, the Royal College of GPs has said.

The college said government plans to recruit thousands more health visitors to provide services in children's centres across the UK will only exacerbate the problem of poor communication between the centres and practitioners.

GPs have complained that vital information is falling through the cracks now that health visitors are based at the centres and not in local surgeries.

But children's charity 4children said having health visitors based in Sure Start centres provides an informal service for mothers that eases pressure on surgeries, particularly when handling non-emergency appointments.

The college said plans to place a further 4,000 health visitors in the centres would not address the problem of poor communication between the centres and GPs, adding that there was an urgent need to get GPs "more engaged" in pre and post-pregnancy care.

Professor Steve Fields of the Royal College of GPs said: "What we have to do very quickly, is to get GPs more engaged during pregnancy and to get the health visitors to link in much more with the practices."

Copyright © Press Association 2010

Royal College of General Practitioners

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"I have worked both as a health visitor in the UK and in a similar role overseas. I have worked on both surgery based and geographically based caseloads. My experience of being surgery based is that the relationship I have been able to develop with GPs and surgery staff has had a significantly positive effect on the service that the practice can offer. However, my role was not based on GP practice requirements, but that of a separate role within the wider team. The GPs with whom I worked developed an understanding and respect for my skills, often contacting me when issues arose for their patients in areas such as infant feeding and parenting" - Clarice Page, Greater Manchester

"I believe that the health visitor's role encompasses children, families and communities and that they struggle to deliver public health work in communities if they focus only on GP practice requirements. In a time of recession strong communities promote resilience and Children's Centres provide a great focus for strengthening communities and health visitors within children's centres play a crucial role" - Deborah Futers, Staffordshire

"I am a health visitor and it is imperative that we are easily accessible to mothers and families. Childrens Centres are the obvious choice for health visitors to be located. Whose needs  are GPs wanting to meet? Apparently not the needs of vulnerable disadvantaged families they want to make life easier for themselves! Health professionals have telephones, email, computer data systems, meetings for face-to-face contacts and if that isn't enough opportunity to communicate then something is sadly wrong between the professionals" - Sara Ward, Shropshire