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Health Policy. 2009 Dec;93(2-3):93-101. doi: 10.1016/j.healthpol.2009.08.001. Epub 2009 Aug 28.

Health Visiting--the end of a UK wide service?

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Nursing & Health Care, Medical Faculty, University of Glasgow, 59 Oakfield Avenue, Hillhead, Glasgow Scotland G12 8LL, United Kingdom.


In 1997 Health Visiting was deemed by New Labour to be an important player in reducing health inequalities. It was acknowledged that if Health Visiting was to fulfill this vision it would have to work out with its traditional child health role and also engage with groups, communities and populations to tackle the determinants of ill health. Twelve years on, external factors such as, NHS cut backs, recent changes to how Health Visitors are regulated throughout the UK and devolved Health Visiting policy making structures have led to the rapid demise in status and legitimacy of Health Visiting and its wider public health role. This article argues that the unintended consequences of devolved Health Visiting policy has resulted in 3 recent community nursing and health-visiting reviews in Scotland and England which have made divergent policy recommendations about the role of the Health Visitor in tackling health inequalities. The recommendations outlined in the Scottish review in particular threatened to jeopardise the very future provision of a UK wide Health Visiting service. If Health Visiting is to survive as a UK wide entity, a radical independent rethink as to its future direction and its public health role is urgently required.

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