The University of Central Lancashire's (UCLan) School of Health was proud to welcome student health visitors to a Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) supported question time event.
The event, which attracted students from across the North West, was organised by Senior Lecturer Karen Whittaker and CPHVA Professional Officer, Dave Munday, to mark the midway point in the Department of Health, health visitor implementation plan for England. This is an ambitious plan running from 2011 – 2015 that aims to increase the workforce by 50%, and importantly, see commitment to a new service vision.
Karen Whittaker commented: “The vision should help put health visitors back into direct contact with communities, families and children living in a diverse range of situations.”
UCLan Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerry Kelleher, opened the event and highlighted the School’s long history in delivering research informed education programmes and high standing in the provision of health visiting – Specialist Community Public Health Nursing programmes. This reputation has been developed as a result of lecturers writing on topics such as parenting, safeguarding, human trafficking and prescribing, to name a few, as well as being contributors to leading research such as the ‘Why Health Visiting’ study and the recently published ‘Start and Stay’ study of health visitor workforce recruitment and retention.
The question time event brought together a panel of national and regional figures each with responsibilities for making the implementation plan a reality. It was chaired by The Rt Hon. Lord Philip Hunt – Shadow Minister for Health, who highlighted the significant contribution made by health visitors across the country and therefore the value in hearing what aspiring practitioners have to say about their chosen careers.
Most importantly, the event provided an opportunity for students embarking on new careers in health visiting to put questions directly to key figures from NHS England, Health Education England and the Department of Health.
The passion and commitment to health visiting was palpable as everyone engaged in this lively debate, and questions were asked about preceptorship, agile working and child development education.
A thought provoking first question from Rachel Rich asked if there is a potential risk that community action may not be taken up due to commissioning being focussed specifically on the Healthy Child Programme. Pauline Watts assured everyone that: 'transforming the health service, now and in the future can only happen if all four tiers of the vision are delivered.'
Job security was clearly a concern for students. Jobs are simply not being advertised in some areas an issue that had been raised at the recent StHVQT in Birmingham. Victoria Madden from East Cheshire asked what is being done in the North West to ensure Trusts are increasing numbers in line with the Implementation Plan. Pauline stated that 'places were allocated in line with Trust trajectories and all students should get jobs and she is prepared to work with Trusts where this is not happening.'
This event ensured that student health visitors are not being ignored and the success was evidenced by the high level of student engagement. Melanie Farman, a PGDip Health Visitor student from the September 2013 cohort said: "I would encourage others to sign up to the next event so that they too can have their voices heard."
Emma Cummings added: "This event gave students a voice and allowed students to gain responses to questions which are not always answered on the frontline."
The next event is now being planned for the 22nd May 2014 and those interested in attending should contact Karen Whittaker for further information.