The Health Visitor Implementation Plan 2011-2015 was published in February 2011. Key messages are the need for professional autonomy and the key role health visitors play in public health delivery.

The Government has branded this as a call to action to expand and strengthen health visiting services. It involves guidance to professionals, service commissioners/providers, higher education institutions, professional bodies and local partners.

The plan includes a pathway to 2015 and the following work programmes:  

  • growing the workforce;
  • professional mobilisation; and
  • aligning delivery systems to ensure rapid progress.  

Further detail in relation to workforce training and growth is provided in the NHS Operating Framework and associated management guidance for 2011/12.

Points to note include:  

  • The Government commits to an extra 4,200 health visitors (full time equivalent). It is expected that 6,000 will need to be trained over the period to 2015 to allow for retirements and other loss.
  • The family nurse partnership (FNP) and other evidence based programmes and methods aimed at helping families with complex needs will be available to all health visitors.
  • Health visitors will work closely with Sure Start Children's Centres, FNP teams, other early years services, GPs, midwives, specialist services and, where appropriate, social care services.
  • The new Health and Wellbeing Boards will bring together child protection partners and have an important role in ensuring the best fit between health visitors and other agencies.
  • The first communities to start the new health visitor service are being identified as pathfinder/early implementation sites. Those who offer examples of good practice for specific components of the service are being identified as component exemplar sites. They are expected to be ready to start a full implementation of the new service by the end of 2011/12. All other communities will deliver through a staged approach signed off between commissioners and providers, with a delivery plan in place by March 2012.
  • There will be a named health visitor on the management board of the local Sure Start Children's Centre and health visiting drop in sessions provided at the centre.

Developments will take account of the further recommendations expected from Professor Munro's review, which is expected in its final form in autumn this year.