York is struggling to recruit enough health visitors because the council does not pay as well as the NHS, a report has suggested.
Four experienced health visitors have left City of York Council to join Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust in the past year and a rolling recruitment advert has garnered no suitable applications in the last six months.
The vacancy rate for health visitors on the council’s healthy child service is set to rise to 13 per cent in October, with capacity for complex cases even more stretched due to the appointment of newly qualified staff.
Health visiting and school nursing services in York were transferred from the NHS to the council in 2016, but council officers have said its shortages will hit the offer available to 11-19 year olds and “undoubtedly put staff under additional workload pressure”·
It provides services such as infant feeding support, help with speech, parenting and diet, as well as support for emotional wellbeing, sexual health and healthy lifestyles for older children.
Health visitors and school nurses with less than two years’ experience can earn almost £2,000 per year more in the NHS. This rises to more than £4,000 for more experienced staff, but the council’s pay award, which is currently pending, would lessen this.
The mileage allowance and annual leave entitlements are also more generous in the NHS.
Similarly, pay for both the lead nurse in the safeguarding children team and staff within the multi-agency safeguarding hub (MASH) are not comparable with NHS pay scales.
“In the medium to longer term this is likely to present a considerable recruitment and retention challenge for the service,” the report stated.
Other councils match pay
Some local authorities outside also choose to match the NHS pay and terms, making recruiting in York even more difficult.
A council report on the healthy child service stated: “Successful recruitment and retention is key to achieving the transformation required in the 5-19 years offer and in the ongoing delivery of an effective 0-19 years offer.
“The pay gap and differences in terms and conditions compared with NHS health visitors and school nurses may be a contributing factor and anecdotal reports from students and staff leaving City of York Council suggest this may be the case.”
The report added: “Retention and recruitment are a significant priority and consideration is being given to career progression options however, financial limitations will make this challenging.”
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspected the healthy child service in September 2021 and gave it a rating of ‘good’, though it ‘required improvement’ in some areas.
A visit in June of this year to review improvements left inspectors “satisfied”.
A council joint scrutiny committee is due to discuss the report at a later date.