RCM supports calls on threats to health visitor numbers - RCM responds to Institute of Health Visiting Position Statement

on 24 June 2019 Healthcare Professionals

The RCM is supporting calls from the Institute of Health Visiting (IHV) on the Government to act to reverse cuts to the health visiting workforce in England. The IHV position statement published today, comes in the wake of news this week of a threatened reduction of 25% in the health visiting workforce in Suffolk, and threats to health visitor numbers in other local authorities.

Commenting on the Statement, Gill Walton, Chief Executive and General Secretary of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said: "The RCM has been highlighting for some time the negative impacts of cuts to the public health grant, such as the reduction in smoking cessation services.  The threat to health visitor numbers is further evidence of the Government's wrong-headed thinking. 

"We need more health visitors, not less. They are already suffering a serious shortage as is the midwifery workforce in England.  This shortage and lack of ready access to health visiting services will almost certainly affect the quality of care given to women and new families.

"It will also have a knock-on and adverse impact on the midwifery workforce if health visitors aren’t available. Either by design or necessity midwives will pick up this work. They are already overstretched and unable to give every woman the time they need. More midwifery postnatal visits can only mean shorter appointments in an area of maternity care that is already unable to provide the levels of support women want and need.

"It was only in 2010 that this Government signalled a need to increase the health visitor workforce. Unfortunately this drive to boost health visitor numbers was sometimes achieved at the expense of midwifery because some midwives moved into health visiting. Now health visitors are being made redundant. 

"This incoherent approach is indicative of poor workforce planning, compounded by the decision to shift responsibility for commissioning health visitors from the NHS to cash-strapped local councils. This smacks carelessness when it comes to growing the early years workforce and of ignorance about the impact of these cuts on the health and wellbeing of women, babies and their families. That is alongside the pressures and stresses it places upon our hard working midwives, maternity support workers and health visitors."

“In order to ensure that there is proper oversight of health visitor recruitment and to encourage joined-up workforce planning across the maternity and early years workforce, it is imperative that responsibility for the health visitor workforce is returned to the NHS and that adequate funding is made available to tackle the shortages of midwives and health visitors.”

The Institute of Health Visiting Position Statement 'Worrying cuts to health visiting services across England – ticking the box but missing the point', can be read at https://ihv.org.uk/news-and-views/news/worrying-cuts-to-health-visiting-services-across-england-ticking-the-box-but-missing-the-point/

Note to editors


The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website at https://www.rcm.org.uk/.