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Protect health visitors in law, says RCN

A campaign to safeguard Scotland's health visiting service has been launched by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The organisation has joined forces with children's charities to campaign for tougher legislation which would protect Scotland's commitment to health visiting in law.

Although there is already a health visiting service in the country which all families with a child under five-years-old can access, the RCN believes the service will not be sustainable unless action is taken.

An RCN spokesperson said: “The combination of financial pressures in health boards, increasing child protection work, the introduction of new assessments and vaccination programmes has increased pressures on health visitors.;

And figures show that many health visitors are retiring, with 47% of NHS Scotland's health visitors aged 50 or above.

RCN Scotland Director, Theresa Fyffe, said: “Scotland's families deserve health visitors. They make a significant contribution to the health and wellbeing of children, families and local communities across the country. 

“The benefits of a universal health visiting service are clear, yet the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill which was recently brought forward by the Scottish Government does not go far enough to address our concerns, one of which is the sustainability of the health visiting workforce.”

According to Fyffe, the first step towards addressing the problem is to enshrine health visiting in law.

Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People, Tam Baillie, said: “We urgently need better workforce planning for health visitors to ensure that access to the service across Scotland is of the highest standard, equitable and consistent.

“We need to invest now in improved Health Visitor services to ensure that children born today get the services they have a right to expect and we have a responsibility to deliver.”