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Health visitor shortage spells doom for Named Person

This news post is almost 8 years old

The Scottish Conservatives say a serious shortage of health visitors will make the Scottish Government's new named person scheme unworkable

The number of vacancies for health visitors in Scotland has risen dramatically, leading to fears over the government's ability to run the new named person scheme.

Figures released by the Scottish Conservatives this week revealed there are 182 vacancies in Scotland’s NHS for health visitors, compared to just 144 in March last year.

This means 8.6% of the workforce, which is expected to take a major role in the new programme, is unfilled.

Of those 182 vacancies, 26 have been unfilled for more than three months.

With less than 60 days before this scheme goes live across the country it is mired in utter crisis - Simon Calvert

The news is the latest controversy to surround to the named person scheme, which comes into effect on 31 August and will see every child in Scotland allocated a named person to monitor their welfare. It has been branded a nanny state policy by some, while others, including children's charities and social workers, back the move as a way of ensuring more protection for the most vulnerable children.

After revealing the statistics, the Scottish Conservatives again urged the Scottish Government to pause the scheme to ensure those tasked with implementing it will be ready.

Shadow education secretary Liz Smith said the party still wanted to see the policy scrapped altogether, but that the least ministers could do would be to put the brakes on.

She said: "There are many reasons why the SNP should press pause on this scheme.

“Those who are tasked with implementing it aren’t sure how to, and the families it will affect are unclear on the impact.

“Now we learn there are scores of vacancies across Scotland among the health visitor workforce.

“That’s going to make it even harder for this unpopular and intrusive policy to work."

Gavin Fergie, professional officer for Unite Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association in Scotland, said the Scottish Government plans to have more health visitors in place by summer 2018 could be too late.

"As a union we supported the bill that the named person part came under because there was investment with the bill which would provide for more health visitors.

"All the new health visitors are due to be in place at the end of the academic year 2018, but the worry is what will be lost in terms of the existing workforce until we get there."

Simon Calvert, of campaign group No to Named Persons, said: "With less than 60 days before this scheme goes live across the country it is mired in utter crisis.

"The Scottish Government boasted 500 additional health visitors would be employed after being told by the Royal College of Nursing they were essential to make this scheme function. But they have missed their target by miles.

"Without these professionals in place, the scheme is unworkable even on its own terms."

The Scottish Government, however, said the increase in vacancies is down to the new recruitment drive.

A spokesperson said: "The rise in vacancies is partly due to the creation of 500 new health visitor posts between 2014 and 2018, and obviously it takes time to fill these posts.

"We are providing funding to health boards to increase the number of health visitors, building on the record high NHS staff levels in Scotland."