The DH is keeping 'a close eye' on how many jobs have been created to accommodate more than a thousand health visitors expected to qualify this month, amid concerns there will not be sufficient posts available.
Professor Viv Bennett, director of nursing and the government's principal advisor on public health nursing, said ministers were keen to ensure there was no surplus of health visitors looking for work as around 1,200 complete their training.
'The SHAs assure us they have plans in place for people to get jobs, and our job is to keep very close to those plans to make sure that that happens,' Prof Bennett said.
As part of this monitoring process, Prof Bennett and NHS Trust Development Authority chief executive David Flory wrote to NHS managers urging commissioners to ensure health visitors 'coming through the expanded training pipeline are effectively deployed'.
Prof Bennett added: 'The letter is ... reminding people of their key responsibilities for this policy under the NHS Operating Framework, and the arrangements that are in place to make sure the performance management is strong so that we don't get the kind of slippage that people are concerned about.
She added that many students were going into posts that had been established as part of their training placements, meaning they would not show up on NHS jobs listings.
Unite/CPHVA professional officer Dave Munday said: 'We're sure there will be areas that initially don't create enough posts for the new health visitors who have just trained, but the real test will be how these areas are quickly supported to increase their posts when this is highlighted.'
The government is committed to recruiting a further 4,200 health visitors by 2014, but Prof Bennett was unable to confirm whether this target was on course to be hit.
'We're still working very hard towards it and we very much hope so,' she said. 'We've got a lot more awareness of health visiting than we had before; we've got a lot of interest from nurses from across branches of the profession, and from some students to go straight on to health visitor training. So on the supply side we're doing very well.'
For more from our interview with Viv Bennett, see news focus, page 10