LONDON, March 30 /PRNewswire/ -- The health visiting crisis can still be measured in hours, according to Unite, the largest union in the country.

The latest NHS workforce statistics, based on September 2008 figures, reveal that a full-time health visitor job is being lost every 30 hours - a slight improvement on the previous year's figure which showed that every 27 hours a health visitor post disappeared.

Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association, said this was 'the final wake-up call' for government to recruit a new generation of health visitors to replace the ageing workforce - as 20% are over 55 and could retire tomorrow.

The latest announcement comes against the backdrop of the latest review by Lord Laming into child protection policies in the wake of the 'Baby P' case.

The Department of Health is staging a health visitor 'summit' in May and Unite said it was a priority that firm plans for recruitment and restoration of training budgets were laid at that meeting.

Unite National Officer for Health, Karen Reay said: 'This is the final wake-up call for government to tackle the health visiting crisis. The rate that health visitor jobs are disappearing has slowed slightly - but the trend is still downwards.'

'In the light of the recent Lord Laming review, the public is demanding a coherent child protection strategy where health visitors play a central role in conjunction with other agencies.'

The NHS workforce statistics show the loss of 292 full-time jobs and that 20% of the headcount is aged over 55 and 40% is 50-plus.

The 'generation gap' starkly emerging was demonstrated by the figure showing that only 17% of health visitors were aged under 40.

The government's recently promised to 'substantially increase' health visitor numbers when the Lord Laming review was announced. Unite has repeatedly called for the employment of 4,000 more health visitors, but realises that this figure may be a mid-to-longer term goal, because of the time required to train new recruits.


There were 8,764 full-time health visitor posts, compared to 9,056 in September 2007. Headcount figures are 11,190 (2008), compared with 11,569 in 2007. That is a loss of a further 292 full-time posts, or 379 health visitors. (Many health visitors work part-time.)

292 full-time jobs lost gives a loss of 5.62 a week based on 52 weeks a year and one lost every 30 hours.

For further information, please ring: Karen Reay, National Officer, Health +44(0)7798-531-004; Obi Amadi, Lead Professional Officer, Policy External Affairs, +44(0)7780-955-936; Shaun Noble, Communications Officer (Health Sector), +44(0)20-7420-8951, +44(0)7768-693-940