A lack of health visitors over a long period has meant the Western Trust has been unable to deliver an Executive-backed programme to improve young people’s life chances to all preschool children in the North West.
Health Minister Michelle O’Neill told SDLP MLA Mark H. Durkan that priority has had to given to vulnerable families and that the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) knows there’s a problem.
The HSCB has commissioned extra staff to try to meet the shortfall.
The Minister explained: “A prolonged period of significant staff shortages within Health Visiting in the Western Health and Social Care Trust, has resulted in the Trust not having the capacity to deliver the full universal ‘Healthy Child, Healthy Future’ programme to all preschool children.
“Priority is, therefore, given to contacts in the first year of life, vulnerable families, child protection families and immunisations. Universal families and those requiring core interventions are receiving a step down service based on assessed need.”
But the Minister said efforts are being made by the HSCB to address the shortfall by providing for extra posts in the Western Trust and elsewhere.
“In order to address this, the Public Health Agency has worked with the Health and Social Care Board to increase the capacity in the five Health and Social Care Trusts. This has resulted in an additional 3.4 WTE Band 6 Health Visitors and 2.8 Band 7 Health Visitor Supervisors for WHSCT.”
Several new visitors will be operational next year.
“The WHSCT has commissioned eight student Health Visitors for this year and the benefits will be realised in 2017.”