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All GP practices to get dedicated health visitor

Every GP practice is to get a ‘named health visitor’ acting as their family liaison officer, it has been announced.

According to new guidance set to come into force from April, health visitors will need to have an ‘agreed schedule of regular contact meetings’ with the practices they cover.

It comes as local authorities are due to assume responsibility for the health visiting service, aimed at providing support to families with children up to five years old, from NHS England from October.

The service specification for 2015/16 said the rule change would ‘return a traditional link’ between practices and health visitors.

It said: ‘The service will provide a named [health visitor] for each GP practice to facilitate liaison, information sharing and joint working in the best interests of families… There will be an agreed schedule of regular contact meetings for collaborative service delivery which must be audited and actioned on a regular basis.’

Family Doctor Association chair Dr Peter Swinyard welcomed the news, saying: ‘What a fantastic idea. We used to know who our health visitor was and even have coffee with them once a month. Now I wouldn’t even know our health visitor if she walked in front of the car. I think it’s high time we went back to the system when we had a primary health care team – which includes health visitors.’

He further called for the role of health visitor to be expanded to also cover patients over the age of five in order to reduce GP workload.

He said: ‘We would be delighted with regular visits, it would be a chance to touch base and it doesn’t have to be a long meeting, just every week or two to say “who are the problem families? Yow can we help them? What do we need to do?” or “this family isn’t bringing any of their children for immunisations, can you go see if there are any problems there?”

‘So I’m absolutely, 100% in favour.’

The scheme follows on from the Government’s pledge of a ‘named GP’ for every patient, included in the 2015/16 GP contract.