Government under fire over ‘damning’ health visitor numbers

Labour condemns the government after number of health visitors in England drops to the lowest level since 2013. 

Labour has criticised the government over dwindling numbers of health visitors in England.

The number of health visitors in England has fallen according to a report into figures by the Labour Party
Picture: iStock

New analysis by the party suggests that the number of health visitors working in the NHS has fallen to the lowest level since December 2013.

In June 2017 there were 8,588 health visitors working in the health service.

Since June 2016 there has been a fall of 903 – which equates to over 75 a month, the party said. Labour also said that the reduction in numbers was 'failing some of the most vulnerable in society'.

Some of health visitor's most prominent work is child development checks for infants. But Labour said that in the last quarter of 2016/17, 12% of babies missed their newborn visit and 16% did not get their eight-week review.

Meanwhile, just under one in four (24%) did not get a review when they turned one and only 77% received a 2.5 year development check, according to Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth who will describe the analysis when he delivers a speech to the annual Unite and Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association conference in Cardiff.


'The new analysis we are revealing today is a damning indictment of the government's commitment to tackling child ill health,' he will say.

'David Cameron and Theresa May used to boast of their commitment to increasing the numbers of health visitors. The fact that health visitor numbers are now falling exposes the Tories' hollow promises.

'The simple truth is the government's staggering cuts are dismantling the country's public health system, failing some of the most vulnerable in our society and leaving children's services at risk.'

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: 'These experienced professionals cover everything from breastfeeding support to spotting children who may be at risk of abuse.

'But they are now bearing the brunt of government cuts and the health and well-being of our children is in jeopardy.

'Ministers must ensure local councils have the funding to give every child the best start in life and not undermine progress made in the last decade.'

Mandated checks

A Department of Health spokesperson said the government mandates health visitor checks for all children up to five years old so they 'get the best start in life'.

'This has been supported with a £16 billion investment for public health over the current spending period, and we have 800 new training places to continue to develop the health visitor workforce,' she added.

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