The Department of Health says it is seeking to attract more men and people from mixed ethnic backgrounds into health visiting, as part of the national recruitment drive.
The overwhelming majority of health visitors are white, female and approaching retirement, according to a DH equality analysis of the health visiting workforce in England.
The recently published research, is intended to inform the government’s ongoing Health Visitor Implementation Plan. The national strategy was published in February 2011 and set the aim of boosting the health visitor workforce by an extra 4,200 by 2015.
It said nationally, around 85% of health visitors were white. However, compared to other nursing professions, health visiting had proportionately higher numbers of staff from ethnic groups other than white, the DH report said.
This pattern was seen across all regions except London, which had a “significantly higher proportion” of health visitors who were black or black British.
The report said 34% of the health visiting workforce in London was black, or black British, and 52% was white.
'We are working with marketing colleagues to encourage nurses from mixed ethnic backgrounds to join the health visitor workforce,' the report said but there appeared to be no figures present on the amount of workforce already present from this group. For instance how many of those listed as not white were actually from mixed ethnic backgrounds. It will also be interesting to see how this marketing is going to attract nurses from mixed backgrounds when the service does not appear to have the parameters in place to recognize them.
There are also very few male health visitors. As of September 2010, there were 9,995 female health visitors and only 101 males, meaning “approximately 99% of health visitors” were women, according to the analysis. It said the DH needed to “ensure that recruitment to the profession targets all eligible individuals, regardless of sex”.
To qualify as a health visitor, you must first be a qualified nurse or midwife, so the health visitor workforce is significantly influenced by the demographic make-up of those professions.
The report noted that there is evidence of women experiencing gender discrimination in the wider nursing profession, for example: despite their low numbers male nurses are more likely to be found in higher grades and achieve promotion at a younger age than their female counterparts.
Finally The age profile of health visitors shows that the majority were between 45-54 years old, which is a little worrying if there are no replacements in the pipeline. So if you are a young male nurse of mixed ethnicity, looks like the NHS needs you.