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DH targets nurses for health visiting roles

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The DH has spent more than £297,000 on a publicity pack designed to lure nurses into health visiting.

The fold-out card, sent to all registered nurses on the NMC database, depicts a baby wrapped in a blanket accompanied by the words 'Help me get off to the best possible start'.

Inside, it gives a brief description of health visiting, and says 'now is the time' for registered nurses to find out more about becoming a health visitor. There is an expression of interest form, which can be mailed back to the department free of charge.

Last year, ministers announced plans to recruit 4,200 more health visitors by 2015.

Health visitor Babs Young, an executive member of the School and Public Health Nurses Association (SAPHNA), criticised the DH's depiction of health visiting. 'It does not reflect the modernised role of the health visitor and undermines all the work that has been done to develop it,' she said.

The total cost of designing, producing and mailing the card was £297,893, the DH told Independent Nurse's sister magazine, the British Journal of School Nursing. Around 27,000 responses have been received.

While the drive to recruit health visitors has been welcomed by professional nursing organisations, concerns have been raised about the way in which the government is seeking to boost numbers.

SAPHNA warned last year that some PCTs were poaching school nurses in order to hit regional health visitor recruitment targets.

Professional officer Sharon White said: 'It is of great concern that school nurses should be targeted on a national level as well. This undermines the whole school nursing strategy and the money could have been better spent in its implementation.'

Jane Wright, senior lecturer in school nursing and National Forum for School Health Educators chair, added: 'It is disappointing that this expensive marketing strategy has been employed to recruit more health visitor trainees. Sending this out to all registered nurses, including those already on the third part of the register seems extravagant.'

A spokeswoman for the DH said the campaign was targeted at all registered nurses, not only school nurses.

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