More health visitors and school nurses need to be employed to ensure a successful revamp in standards proposed by their regulatory body, the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), Unite the union said today (May 25).
Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), welcomed the update of regulatory standards over the next 18 months to reflect current practice, such as the acknowledgement of the changing and diverse nature of the UK population – but this vital contribution to public health and the welfare of young families across the UK won’t be achieved unless there is a dramatic boost in recruitment.
The recent NMC report on its register highlighted the reduction in the number of health visitors (from 23,160 in March 2018 to 22,476 in March 2022), with England showing a reduction from 18,481 to 17,412, compared to increases in the other three countries of the UK.
Unite lead professional officer for health visiting Obi Amadi said, “These new proposed standards, on which we have had a positive dialogue with the NMC, will ensure that families receive a high quality service from skilled and knowledgeable practitioners that represent up-to-date current professional practice.
“However, the fly in the ointment is the reduction of the workforce in recent years. We need, as a society, more health visitors and school nurses – basically, more qualified staff who will continue to be trained to these new standards.
“We have lost many staff post-pandemic for various reasons. But a central truth is that significant and ‘ring fenced’ investment is needed so that families receive the best possible service. Higher education institutes will also need to introduce these standards into their curriculum.
“The standards had not been updated for many years so did not reflect current practice needs, such as the changing nature of the UK population. We have lobbied for this revamp for many years so were glad when the process began in 2019. Once rolled-out, practitioners will have greater depth of knowledge and skill allowing them to respond better to the diverse needs of their communities.”
New standards of proficiency for future specialist community public health nurses (SCPHN), community nursing specialist practice (SPQs) and associated programme standards are due to be approved by the NMC Council tomorrow (Thursday 26 May).
Unite lead professional officer for regulation Jane Beach added, “We will continue to work closely with the NMC on the implementation of these standards and look forward to further discussions on potential changes to the regulation of SCPHNs, as part of the Department of Health and Social Care’s regulatory reform programme.
“It is essential to ensure any changes do not negatively impact on public protection, and support health visitors, school nurses and community nurses so they deliver the quality services their clients deserve.”
By Shaun Noble