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Taking on the Presidency of Unite's CPHVA Union

Not Just Listening but Hearing

Yesterday I had the great privilege of attending The Celebration Event for Health Visitor Week 2017. In my first day as President of the CPHVA it was a great opportunity for me to hear the hearts of some of the Health Visitors ahead of our National Conference in October.

I loved hearing from Prof Judith Ellis presenting RCPCH’s State of Child Health Report. I would like to see the Union working even more closely with the college. We heard from Kate Alsopp, Deputy Chair of the Local Government Assoc Community Wellbeing Board. It was brave of her to come and speak and I felt she was someone who we could approach and attempt collaboration with. There was an ideas session on Asset Mapping your community area and great break out sessions in the afternoon, covering everything from Mental Health to Working with Local Authorities, Best Beginnings and FGM.

Here’s what I picked up:

  • The Health Visitors present were passionate, creative and committed to getting it right for their clients whilst wanting to maintain good health and wellbeing in their own lives.
  • The HVs, working on the ground, didn’t feel they were being listened to. Their challenges are real. They are not just winging, the issues are of real and genuine concern. Those in attendance seemed to me to be solution orientated and flexible. They need to be heard.
  • The past few years have seen massive changes in Health Visiting. The recruitment drive of 2011 was a great initiative and yet the rush to gain 4200 new Health Visitors by 2015 led to a lack of quality control and management of expectations in many of the new staff. As a result the service is now leaking numbers again.
  • Many Health visitors are being down-banded, particularly those coming into the profession so there is an unspoken expectation that they will do a job outside of their banding remit.
  •  Local Authority commissioning has led to many HV’s feeling they cannot offer the service they feel they need to offer to their clients.
  • The structure within many Local Authorities means that managers have to hit targets of 20 visits per week per HV. Between the manager and the HV are the clerks, who fill the diaries of the HV, with no knowledge of the needs of the clients the HVs are visiting, making the aim of personalised care challenging.
  • HV working on the ground are not invited to Local Authority leadership meetings and therefore their voice is not truly heard.

As I listened to the issues raised it became clear to me that here were many incredible individuals, with great ideas, with a passion to serve the communities they work in. They were on message and in agreement with much of what

Prof Viv Bennett shared as Director of Nursing at PHE. Viv’s speech was thorough and passionate and she really seems to get it. However, somewhere between Viv’s incredible expertise and understanding and the Health Visitor on the ground there is a gap.

We live in a world where many of us take in information on a headline basis and this can be very misleading. We often read news stories where polar opposite views appear to both be true, what we call post-truth society. I would suggest that it is not that either view is a lie but simply, we have not dug deep enough to find out the real underlying issues. It is not truth that needs to be challenged but perspective. 

If we are to collaborate and co-produce a work of excellence we have to learn to listen but more than this, to hear. When we truly hear the heart of the person, when we capture all views, only then can we begin to work together towards solutions. Hand on heart, I honestly believe solutions exist but often fear or lack of access to all parties means it doesn’t really get done.

  1. Every stakeholder has to get round a solution-orientated table. Where appropriate this should include parents and young people. Gathering is a great gift in some people, find those natural networkers and use their skills.

  2. Every attempt to hear one another should be made. Every person given an equal opportunity to share, every listener attempting to truly understand the perspective of the speaker.

  3. Good ideas and solutions can come from anywhere, regardless of status or role.

  4. Ideas/Solutions have to be shared and shouted about!