Women and Children

Lincolnshire health visitors balloted for strike action over ‘no pay rises’ and erosion of professional standards

A total of 57 health visitors employed by Lincolnshire county council are being balloted on strike action over not getting paid the rate for the job and the erosion of their professional responsibilities which could adversely impact vulnerable families.

It is believed to be the first time that the county’s health visitors have been balloted on strike action in defence of their pay and professional standards. The ballot closes on Thursday 27 June.

Unite, Britain and Ireland’s largest union, said it calculates that its 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. 

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.

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.

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.

Unite regional officer Steve Syson said: “It is unprecedented that the health visitors in Lincolnshire are being balloted for strike action on the council’s refusal to give them a pay rise since 2017 and also over concerns that their professional standards are being seriously eroded by a penny pinching employer.

“However, it did not stop the council digging deep into hard-pressed taxpayers’ pockets to pay chief executive Keith Ireland £292,000 for less than six months’ work – there is a strong whiff of hypocrisy hovering over county hall.

“We want our members to have a pay rate that properly reflects the health visitor specialist role, in line with the county council’s grade 10,  backdated to April last year. We also want no reduction in our members’ professional responsibilities and duties.” 

Unite is campaigning for health visitors and other community nurses to be taken back from local councils into the NHS ‘family’, as the profession faces a crisis with the lowest number of health visitors in England since September 2012.

Unite professional officer for the East Midlands Jane Beach said: “What the council has done is create a two-tier health visitor service that is being dressed up as a so-called ‘career progression scheme’.

“Health visitors are nurses or midwives who have undergone additional specialist training and are experts in assessing, planning and leading on preventative healthcare for children and families.

“The reality is that council bosses have removed key elements - leadership, planning, evaluating, managing complex safeguarding - from the level 1 health visitor role and moved these to level 2. 

“By removing the specialist elements, the level 1 no longer constitutes a health visitor role.

“This will leave a big gap in the service putting children and families at risk with fewer level 2 health visitors who themselves will be at risk of burnout.

“This is short sighted given the current crisis in general practice and, ultimately, will result in delays in support for children and families in Lincolnshire, many of them in vulnerable circumstances, which, we believe, will have a serious impact on their health and social welfare.”

ENDS

Notes to editors:

The dispute only involves those 57 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 2012.

There were 7,694 health visitors in England in January this year, a fall of 25 per cent since their peak of more than 10,000 in October 2015 when the Health Visitor Implementation Plan came to an end.

This means that health visitors now look after more under-fives than the 250 maximum recommended by CPHVA.

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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