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Secretaries to weigh babies in Bexley

Suggestions that secretaries in Bexley should weigh babies - a job that should be carried out by trained healthcare professionals - have been branded as "frightening".

In a bid to help save Bexley Care Trust £12.3m by March 2007, a health visitor manager has floated the proposal that untrained admin staff should take over the clinical role of experienced health visitors or trained healthcare assistants. A meeting to discuss the issue is scheduled for 22 February.

Amicus/Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association (CPHVA) condemned any such move as "frightening", as it left the health visitor liable for litigation and the possibility of being "struck off" the Nursing and Midwifery  Council register, if something goes wrong.

Amicus lead professional Officer, Obi Amadi said: "It seems that the importance of what really happens when a child is undressed and weighed at a clinic has been lost or forgotten to pander to the desire to cut costs."

"We would never say that secretaries were not able to do this, but it involves specific training, in terms of closely observing the children, and understanding the child protection role. For example, are the bruises on an eight month-old baby due to the child learning to walk and falling over naturally, or something more sinister?" 

"This will leave the named health visitor who is responsible for omission or commission - and it is not acceptable to say 'I didn't know because I wasn't told' - vulnerable to future litigation. "

"Trust managers will need to demonstrate that the cost in time and money of the comprehensive accredited training they will need to provide the secretarial staff is a good and legitimate use of public money, as the admin staff  would not be being used for the knowledge and skills they were originally employed for."