A total of 500 new health visitor posts will be created over the next four years in Scotland, the Scottish health secretary has announced.
There will be investment in the education of health visitors and the creation of new posts over the next four years to ensure the delivery of 500 new health visitor posts by 2017/18.
Alex Neil, the Scottish health secretary, said: ‘Health visitors play a vital role in our communities, and they are at the core of delivering universal health services. We want to invest in health visitors as the first part of the work to fulfil our vision to revolutionise children's services and make Scotland the best place to grow up, which is why we are delivering 500 more health visitors over the next four years.
‘As front-line NHS workers, working with people to reduce health problems from an early age, these new health visitors will play a key role in the Scottish Government's efforts to reduce health inequalities.'
Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing Scotland, said: ‘Health visitors make a crucial difference to the health and wellbeing of the future lives of children and families. That's why we've been campaigning for the past year for the Scottish Government to invest in having the right number of fully resourced health visitors in place.'
Gavin Fergie, professional officer for Unite/CPHVA in Scotland, added: ‘There is work to be done in making this a reality and the devil will be in the detail as to how this will be implemented.
‘We view this four year plan, which runs until 2018, not as an end in itself, but a first constructive step in a continuing programme to develop the profession into the 2020s.
‘Unite/CPHVA has been integral in the work leading to the announcement by the cabinet secretary for health and wellbeing.'
In March this year, Scotland's health visiting workforce stood at a total headcount of 1624 (whole time equivalent of 1339). Unite advised that based on those figures and extra 500 posts were the minimum required to meet health needs.
Mr Fergie also raised concerns about other branches of community nursing and the need for more investment in these areas.
‘Questions remain about the future for school nursing and nurses, and we hope a similar announcement will be made for this group in the near future.
‘District nursing and nurses also require investment. Analysis on how to develop and support this service is long overdue.'