Health visitors key to vaccination success
20 February 2013
Health bosses have been accused of putting the childhood vaccination programme at risk through cost-cutting measures.
BMA Northern Ireland has warned that high vaccination rates cannot be maintained if health trusts continue to cut the number of health visitors working in GP surgeries.
BMA Northern Ireland GPs committee chair Tom Black said: ‘The most important work GPs do in their practices is childhood vaccination and childhood health surveillance. There is no other work that compares in terms of benefit to the patient. It is now taken for granted because it has worked for so long.
‘At the beginning of my career, about 20 years ago, the childhood vaccination rates were as low as 35 per cent, but GPs in Northern Ireland now achieve the top vaccination figures for the UK. We need to maintain that, not take it for granted, and allow an effective system to be undermined by cost-cutting.’
Drop in numbers
GP leaders are hearing reports that an increasing number of practices are being affected by the reduction in health visitors working in baby clinics across Northern Ireland.
In 2012, the number of health visitors was 426.6 whole-time equivalents, down from 451 whole-time equivalents in 2010. The way in which health visitors operate has also been overhauled.
A number of GPs have reported they are experiencing difficulties delivering the childhood vaccination programmes.
BMA Northern Ireland has argued that health visitors working in cooperation with GPs ensures the best possible start for children.