A total of 57 health visitors employed by Lincolnshire county council are being balloted on strike action over not getting paid the rate for the job and the erosion of their professional responsibilities which could adversely impact vulnerable families.
It is believed to be the first time that the county’s health visitors have been balloted on strike action in defence of their pay and professional standards. The ballot closes on Thursday, June 27.
Unite said it calculates that its Lincolnshire health visitor members have lost more than £2,000 a year since they were transferred from the NHS to the county council in October 2017.
Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), is also seriously concerned about the downgrading of the health visitors’ professional status, resulting in fewer staff doing the specialist health visitor role.
The health visitors are on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scales, but have had no increases in pay since being transferred to the local authority which has different pay rates – even though both council and NHS employees have received wage awards, these health visitors have not.
NHS staff in England last year accepted a three year pay deal which, for the majority of staff, meant a 6.5 per cent hike in pay over the three years.
“It is unprecedented that the health visitors in Lincolnshire are being balloted for strike action on the council’s refusal to give them a pay rise since 2017 and also over concerns that their professional standards are being seriously eroded by a penny pinching employer,” said Unite regional officer Steve Syson.
“However, it did not stop the council digging deep into hard-pressed taxpayers’ pockets to pay chief executive Keith Ireland £292,000 for less than six months’ work – there is a strong whiff of hypocrisy hovering over county hall.
“We want our members to have a pay rate that properly reflects the health visitor specialist role, in line with the county council’s grade 10, backdated to April last year. We also want no reduction in our members’ professional responsibilities and duties.”
Unite is campaigning for health visitors and other community nurses to be taken back from local councils into the NHS ‘family’, as the profession faces a crisis with the lowest number of health visitors in England since September 2012.
Unite professional officer for the East Midlands Jane Beach added, “What the council has done is create a two-tier health visitor service that is being dressed up as a so-called ‘career progression scheme’.
“Health visitors are nurses or midwives who have undergone additional specialist training and are experts in assessing, planning and leading on preventative healthcare for children and families.
“The reality is that council bosses have removed key elements – leadership, planning, evaluating, managing complex safeguarding – from the level 1 health visitor role and moved these to level 2.
“By removing the specialist elements, the level 1 no longer constitutes a health visitor role.
“This will leave a big gap in the service putting children and families at risk with fewer level 2 health visitors who themselves will be at risk of burnout.
“This is short sighted given the current crisis in general practice and, ultimately, will result in delays in support for children and families in Lincolnshire, many of them in vulnerable circumstances, which, we believe, will have a serious impact on their health and social welfare.”