Headlines: October 26th, 1998

A million pound Innovation Fund has been set up to explore ways of modernising the role of health visitors.Tessa Jowell, Minister for Public Health, said: “Health visitors are absolutely crucial to the delivery of the Government’s public health strategy. We have set ourselves ambitious tasks: to tackle the root causes of ill-health; to narrow the gap between the best off and the worst off; to build a Health Service, not just a health care service.

“The value of the outreach work done by health visitors and community practitioners will be essential to achieving these aims. For example, the Sure Start programme, a 540 million pound initiative to address social exclusion early and ensure vulnerable children get a decent start in life, will rely heavily upon the skills and commitment of professionals working in the community.

“The challenge for health visiting is to develop new ways of supporting families and children, to build practice on the clear evidence of what works, and to develop clear measures of success.

“In recent years many health visitors have felt their profession marginalised. We are committed to restoring health visitors to their rightful place at the very heart of our public health and primary care strategies. Their skills are simply too valuable to lose or waste.

“The Innovation Fund will help to strengthen the capacity of health visitors to address these challenges and to develop a new, modern health visiting role.”

The million pounds will come from the NHS Modernisation Fund (announced in July following the Comprehensive Spending Review). It will be available from April 1999 over three years.