The Institute for Health Visitors (IHV) has published its annual report on the state of health visiting in England. The IHV call for more health visitors given the stark statistics raised through the report, noting a postcode lottery for babies, children and their families, including:
- 80% an increase in domestic abuse
- 71% an increase in child safeguarding
- 86% of health visitors reported an increase in speech, language, and communication problems
- 80% an increase in child behavioural problems
- 72% an increase in poverty affecting children and families.
- 42% of health visitors worry that they “can’t do enough to safeguard babies and children
- Only 9% of health visitors in England work with the recommended ratio of 250 children aged 0-5, or less, per full time equivalent health visitor (FTE HV); compared to around two-thirds of health visitors in Scotland and Wales
- Worryingly, more than 1 in 4 health visitors in England are accountable for over 750 children (in Scotland and Wales, no health visitors have caseloads of this size)
In response to the statistics Dr Camilla Kingdon, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health said:
The findings in the IHV annual state of health visiting report are extremely worrying. Health visitors play an incredibly important role to look after babies, children, young people and their families, and to keep them safe.
To see more than a quarter of health visitors in England reporting that they are responsible for over 750 children – more than three times the recommended limit - is inexcusable. It is little wonder that nearly half of respondents (42%) say they feel they “can’t do enough to safeguard babies and their families." This comes at the same time they see increases in domestic abuse, child behavioural problems and a 72% increase in poverty affecting children and families.
We are facing a cross-roads for child health. We need a fully backed health and care workforce plan in place, working alongside a cross departmental child health strategy to ensure every child has the best start in life. Without this the inequalities gaps will widen, post-code lotteries of care will remain and we will see further problems along the road. We call on government to realise the ambitions described in the Leadsom Report (The Best Start to Life) in order to truly transform the lives of children and ultimately society.