The latest figures from the NHS Information Service show that despite the Government’s pledge to recruit thousands more health visitors, their number is falling in many parts of England, particularly in London and East of England.
Unite, which includes the Community and Health Visitors Association, said that the figures – which were analysed by Children & Young People Now - show that seven out of ten strategic health authorities in England reported a decline in the number of health visitors over the past year.
The number of health visitors has dropped by 213 to 7,879.
The analysis found that London has lost 77 health visitor posts, the East of England 76, the South West 64, the North West 63, South Central 27, the West Midlands 20 and the South East Coast 12.
The Health Visitor Implementation Plan, launched in February, set a target to recruit 4,200 health visitors by 2015 to add to the May 2010 figure of 8,092 full time equivalents.
The plan said that every children's centre would have access to a named health visitor to offer families with young children improved help and support.
It also set a provisional target to train an extra 1,135 health visitors by the end of March 2012.
Unite’s lead professional officer Obi Amadi said, ‘The Government needs to consider ring-fencing health visitor budgets to meets its pledge. The Government gave the SHAs an extra three per cent on top of baseline funding for health visitors, but it appears it hasn’t been used.’
‘They need to take a good look at ring-fencing budgets, otherwise the money is not going to be spent on what it should be.’