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Most vulnerable families bear brunt of health visitor cutbacks

The most vulnerable families in Britain are being hardest hit by the cuts to the health visiting workforce, new national research has revealed.

A survey of 1,000 health visitors has disclosed that 55% of them are now making fewer visits to families - and the biggest impact has been losing track of vulnerable families.

Amicus/the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association, which commissioned the research, said that this will lead to increased cases of child abuse and more mothers struggling with postnatal depression without professional help.

This new "double whammy" for community health services comes a month after Amicus/CPHVA used the Freedom of Information Act to reveal a 40% cut in the number of health visitors being trained in England this year.

The research also revealed that:

  • Nearly 80% of respondents said that their workload had increased.
  • Half of them had responsibility for more than 300 children and 22% took charge of more than 500.

Cheryll Adams, Lead Professional Officer for Amicus Heath Sector, said: "The research, allied with the health visitor training cuts, demonstrates the depth of the crisis that now faces the health visiting profession and the families and communities they serve.

"The message clear - Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt needs to issue an immediate directive to primary care trusts and strategic health authorities to reverse the devastating drop in health visitor numbers."

She continued: "Health visitors are the key professionals when it comes to diagnosing postnatal depression affecting 100,000 women a year; giving up-to-date advice on immunisations, and often being the first health professional to detect child abuse."

The research was a random telephone survey of 1,000 health visitors nationwide. It was released at the same time as a Family and Parenting Institute YouGov poll of 4,775 parents showed that parents give health visitors a clear mandate with overwhelming support for their role - 76% of parents in England said they wanted parenting support and advice on their child's health and development from a trained health visitor with up-to-date knowledge, and 83% of parents wanting this support and advice in the home.