Jonathan Ashworth

Labour’s shadow health secretary Jon Ashworth to address Lincoln rally in support of striking health visitors tomorrow

Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary Jon Ashworth will give Lincolnshire’s health visitors ‘maximum support’ when he addresses a well-supported rally in Lincoln tomorrow  (Saturday 17 August).

The dispute centres on the calculation by Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, that its 58 Lincolnshire health visitor members have lost more than £2,000 a year since they were transferred from the NHS to the county council in October 2017.

The latest round of talks with the county council, under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas, broke down yesterday (Thursday) leading to Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel to describe the council bosses as ‘turning old-fashioned pig-headedness into an art form’.

The rally in Lincoln tomorrow will see the protestors meeting in the Minster Yard at 11.00. The march will start at 11.30 going through the city centre and ending with speeches at High Bridge. Lincoln’s Labour MP Karen Lee will also address the rally.

Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary Jon Ashworth will tell the rally that: “An incoming Labour government will make the restoration of the health visitor service in England a top priority in terms of a major boost in recruitment numbers and the funding to match.

“We will stop the constant salami slicing of the service witnessed in recent years which has led to the lowest number of health visitors in England since September 2009.

“We will put an end to the grotesque pay anomalies and erosion of professional standards, such as currently exists in Lincolnshire.

“We recognise the vital work that health visitors do for families and young children during those important early years – and that’s why I am here to give you maximum support.”

The health visitors have already taken or scheduled 13 days of strike action. Today (Friday 16 August), two further 48 hour strikes were announced starting on 27 August and then on 5 September. Both actions commence at 00.01.

Unite regional secretary for the East Midlands Paresh Patel said: “Unite will support our health visitors in Lincolnshire for as long as it takes against a council that has turned old-fashioned pig-headedness into an art form.

“We call on local people to turn out tomorrow to show that their strong support for the health visitors who are the bedrock in local communities delivering a joined-up public health agenda for families, some of whom are in vulnerable circumstances.” 

The health visitors are on the NHS Agenda for Change pay scales, but have had no increases in pay since being transferred to the local authority which has different pay rates – even though both council and NHS employees have received wage awards, these health visitors have not.

Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), is also seriously concerned about the downgrading of the health visitors’ professional status, resulting in fewer staff doing the specialist health visitor role.

ENDS

Notes to editors:

The health visitors had voted by an 84 per cent majority to strike.

It is believed to be the first time that the county’s health visitors have taken strike action in defence of their pay and professional standards, given extra piquancy by the controversy over the council  handing its former chief executive Keith Ireland a £292,000 pay off for a mere six months work.

NHS staff in England  last year accepted a three year pay deal which, for the majority of staff, meant a 6.5 per cent hike in pay over the three years.

The dispute only involves those 58 health visitors transferred from the NHS under Agenda for Change terms. There are 111 full-time equivalent health visitor posts – and those other health visitors are either on grade 10 contacts or were employed by the county council since October 2017. There are also some student health visitors.

The latest figures from NHS Digital reveal the lowest number of health visitors in England since September 2009.

There were 7,121 health visitors in England in April this year, a fall of 31 per cent since their peak of more than 10,000 in October 2015 when the Health Visitor Implementation Plan came to an end.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on:  020 3371 2065
Email: shaun.noble@unitetheunion.org

  • Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest union with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.

 

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