In the last decade, child health services have developed based on research and the healthy child programme. In the London strategic health authority region, 1,876 health visitors were employed in 1997. Following the change and the extensive child health programmes, we now deliver child health by a range of practitioners. The latest figures show that at 30 September 2008 there were 1,577 health visitors.
Does the Minister accept that after 12 and a half years in office, we are losing nationally one health visitor on average every 30 hours, that the professions reckon that we need another 8,000 to plug the gaps and that there are some places where there are two and a half as many people on a health visitor’s case load as was recommended as safe by the inquiry into baby Peter’s death?
We recognise that there is a shortage of health visitors, but, as I said in my earlier answer, we are delivering the child health strategy in a different way. Health visitors now lead teams. The 21 Sure Start centres in Southwark, part of the hon. Gentleman’s constituency, serve as a focal point for local families, and have excellent links with health visitors, nurseries and infant schools.
Unite/CPHVA and the national health service have launched an action on health visiting programme. They are working closely together, especially in London, evaluating return to practice schemes. We value our health visitors greatly. As for their case load, the Secretary of State recently announced that such issues were to be reviewed.