Nearly 100 new health visitors for Norfolk & Waveney by 2015

Norfolk and Waveney are to get nearly 100 new health visitors in the next four years after the areas were picked by the government to trial a new service.

Norfolk will see the number rise from 87 health visitors, some of whom work full time and some part time, to 167 full and part time posts, while Great Yarmouth and Waveney's current team of 33 will get an extra 16 visitors, taking them to 49.

The Department of Health has redesigned the health visitor service, and has picked 20 places across the country as trial the new-look scheme, which will see an extra 4,200 health visitors recruited nationwide.

NHS Norfolk's health visitor service, which is provided by Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust (NCH&C), and NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney's service have both been chosen as 'early implementers' of the scheme, which means they will start recruiting in the coming months and delivering it before March next year.

Health visitors are trained nurses or midwives with specialist training in family and community health. They work with parents and their families to improve health and wellbeing, starting during a woman's pregnancy and continuing to offer support through the first few weeks after the birth of the baby all the way through until early childhood.

They work in families' homes or in a community setting to provide support and advice for parents and foster parents to help them cope with the day-to-day demands of having a child and, if necessary, pick up on a child's particular health or developmental needs.

The new service aims for health visitors to work even closer with other health and care professionals - such as Family Nurse Partnership teams, Sure Start Children's Centres, GPs and midwives and existing health visitors will be offered the chance to refresh and develop their skills too.

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Julia Whiting, nurse consultant for NCH&C, said: 'Being selected as an early implementer site is a great achievement as it means our local service is already thought of as offering best practice and is suitable already to begin rolling out the new health visitor programme. This means that people in Norfolk will benefit from the new service sooner, rather than waiting for the national roll out expected in the coming years.

'Over the next few months, we will be looking to offer wider training to the health visitor team to help them expand their skills, as well as recruiting even more new health visitors and offering support and training to existing qualified health visitors who would like to return to the profession. Fundamentally, all this will mean that we are able to offer parents across Norfolk an even better service which meets the health and care needs of them and their children.'

Elaine Mash, commissioning manager for children and maternity at NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney, said: 'We are delighted to be chosen as early implementers for additional health visitors in Great Yarmouth and Waveney. We have a record for excellent multi-agency and early intervention practice.

'We currently have 33 health visitors and this project means an additional 16 taking us up to 49 by 2015.

'Health visitors are core services for all families. By expanding the workforce children and families will get the best start in life.'

The extra health visitor jobs have been welcomed by Norfolk MPs Brandon Lewis, George Freeman and Chloe Smith, who say that the NHS in Norfolk will enjoy an extra �54m from todayAPRIL1 to support key Government priorities such as the Cancer Drugs Fund, investment in talking therapies for those with mental health conditions and support for carers' breaks.

Miss Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North, said: 'Patients and professionals want the NHS protected. I am proud that this is exactly what is happening.

'Next year alone, Norfolk will benefit from an extra �54m of investment. It's going straight to doctors, nurses and other frontline services, not on managers.

'Previously, billions of extra spending was swallowed up as the number of managers increased at five times the rate the number of nurses. That's simply not right nor common sense.'

However, not everyone is pleased about the direction of the NHS under the new government and a public meeting to discuss fears that some of the changes will lead to privatisation of NHS services will be taking place in Norwich next week.

The meeting, at 7.30pm on Thursday, April 7, at Friends Meeting House in Upper Goat Lane, will be chaired by former Labour MP Ian Gibson.

Speakers will include Wendy Savage, founder member of Keep Our NHS Public (KONP) and Chris Edwards, a senior fellow at the University of East Anglia.

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