Health visitors are ‘progressively being separated from general practice’, a House of Lords select committee has been told.
The Integration of Primary and Community Care Committee has published a report after gathering evidence from various health professionals and academics on the existing barriers to providing a joined-up healthcare service.
Among those quoted in the report is John Campbell, professor of general practice and primary care at the University of Exeter, who said: ‘Health visiting… has been hugely valued by GPs and their teams, but is now no longer really part of general practice.
‘Sadly, we have lost so many health visitors that we do not know who these people are or where they are.’
Professor Campbell also told the report – called Patients at the centre: integrating primary and community care – that health visitors ‘provide a hugely valuable service, safeguarding and supporting families and people with long-term conditions’.
The report makes a number of recommendations to improve service integration, including the exploration of different ownership models for GP practices to ‘facilitate more joined-up and better care’.
Alison Morton, chief executive at the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), welcomed Professor Campbell’s comments, and highlighted the need for more health visitors in order to achieve the select committee’s objectives.
‘We are delighted to see that health visiting has been recognised as a key sector of the health service by the committee,’ Ms Morton told Nursing in Practice.
‘The report also highlights the very real challenges of workforce shortages and fragmented models of care that are having a significant impact across the whole health and care system.’
Ms Morton expressed the view that Professor Campbell ‘speaks for many GPs’ in highlighting ‘how much they value health visitors and the work they do to safeguard and support families’.
She added that the professor ‘raises valid concerns’ about the impacts of the depletion of the health visiting service in recent years, which is ‘hampering collaborative working’.
Ms Morton said: ‘Close working relationships between health visitors and GPs are vitally important to support their collective work with all babies, young children and families, and particularly those living with complex conditions, risk and vulnerability.
‘We share the professor’s concerns and support the recommendations in this report. To deliver better joined-up care, we urgently need more health visitors,’ she added.
More widely, the report, published last week, also found that a lack of coordination between primary and community care services was leading to ‘substandard care and missed opportunities’ for home or community-based treatments.