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RCN calls for re-think on health visitor changes in Lincolnshire

30 Oct 2019

Lincolnshire County Council risks undermining efforts to give children the healthiest possible start in life by pursuing a “divisive” career progression scheme for its health visitors, according to the RCN.

The RCN is calling on the council to scrap a new framework that puts health visitors holding the same professional qualification on one of two different levels of pay and job responsibilities.

The College fears it will deter staff from working in the county and leave the health visiting service struggling to cope with demand.

Health visitors support children from birth to the age of five and their families but the workforce in the NHS in England has shrunk by nearly a third from 10,309 in October 2015 to 6,931 in July this year – an issue serious enough to trigger a debate in Parliament last week.

Lincolnshire’s health visitors transferred from the employment of the NHS to the county council in 2017 after the latter decided to commission the delivery of the health visiting service in-house.

Lower pay and responsibility

But changes being introduced by the authority would leave some of the staff on a lower pay and responsibility grade than their colleagues and worse off than their counterparts working for NHS organisations.

David Kirwan, the RCN’s Operational Manager in the East Midlands, said: “The council is making a mockery of the established principle of equal pay and recognition for work of equal value.

“The value of health visitors is that they are qualified and highly-skilled professionals who provide vital support for young children and their families over a period of time that can yield lasting health and social benefits.

“It is divisive and deeply unfair that the council is implementing changes that will erode the professional standing of some of its own health visitors and potentially discourage staff from staying in or joining the health visiting service in Lincolnshire. 

'Caseloads are high'

“That would be bad news for the health and wellbeing of families in the county at a time when caseloads are high and the service is already under significant pressure.”

Health visitors belonging to Unite the Union are currently involved in a dispute with the council over the two-tier workforce scheme.

Mr Kirwan added: “We’d like to see the council enter into a meaningful dialogue to resolve this issue. The health visitor strikes involving Unite members are not something anyone wants to see but it is difficult to see what else the staff can do to try to ensure they are recognised and remunerated properly and fairly. 

“Lincolnshire is the only council to have taken this approach and we would urge the authority to reconsider its position in the interests of children and families in the county.”

Page last updated - 17/05/2021