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Health visiting in Peterborough facing disaster

The health visiting service in Peterborough, which is tackling the health issues of a rapidly growing and diverse population, is facing "disaster", says Unite.

Unite, the largest union in the UK, has written to the Chief Executive of Peterborough Primary Care Trust (PCT) Angela Bailey warning her of the impending crisis, as the trust gears up to make further swingeing cuts to the service.

Karen Reay, Unite National Officer for Health said: "The service is heading towards disaster as managers are failing to meet the public health challenges of a growing, multicultural city. Health visiting is being 'salami sliced', at the very time that government ministers are saying how valuable health visitors and the role they play are.

"Unite is calling for further talks with the PCT before the service is gridlocked by the ever-competing pressures on its diminishing resources."

Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association (CPHVA), has outlined 11 key areas where health visitors are buckling under the strain. They include:

  • Health visitors have been told that 3% savings, amounting to £61,000-a-year, are needed, on top of last year's 2% cost savings. Last year, this was only achieved by nonreplacement of staff, which meant that caseloads were split up among other health visitors.
  • Health visitor caseloads are more than the 50 clients-per-day for each health visitor, as recommended by Unite/CPHVA. Even after a management review of caseloads, health visitors still have a daily caseload of at least 83 clients.
  • Peterborough's population is very diverse, and has grown faster than the national average, mainly as a result of immigration. Health visitors need interpreters for many visits, as more than 100 languages are spoken in Cambridgeshire, putting added time pressures onto the health visitors' already overstretched workload.
  • The birth rate has increased 10% in the last year, with the maternity unit having delivered 4,000 babies up to the end of March 2008.
  • There have been no health visiting training posts over the last year which is having a big impact, although the trust has said it will support three part-time training posts over the next two years.


Another example of a PCT undervaluing the health visiting service? What do you think? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"Government health ministers are quoted as saying how valuable health visitors and the role they play are. Can anyone tell me why if we are so valuable that they can change a health visiting post into staff nurse hours? Seems to me that they think anyone can do a health visitors job. Health visitors beware, this could be the end of the line for us." - Marie Garrity, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde