The Association is characterised by its ability to change with the times and maximise opportunity. Formed in 1904 the Women’s Sanitary Inspectors Association grew into the Association of Women’s Sanitary Inspectors and Health Visitors in 1911 which in turn transmuted into the HVA by 1962. Membership changes and a re-focussing on a changing agenda for the NHS primary care workforce led to the adoption of our current name – CPHVA – in 1996. The Association was originally established out of concerns for ‘professional’ issues, but it didn’t take long for a desire to address terms and conditions problems to emerge. In 1918, with affiliation to the Women’s Trade Union League, the Association became a registered trades union, with official representation at the TUC coming in 1925. The ability to deliver a quality service so far as both professional and labour relations / industrial issues became a hallmark of success carrying the Association onwards and upwards into the eighties. Ironically this success almost brought the organisation to its knees. Membership increased by 280% between 1973 and 1989, a membership which was demanding more and more from the professional officer team at the Association but without paying too much more in subscriptions! Health policy challenges such as the introduction of general management, skill mix, clinical grading, and more robust local bargaining also put an overburdening strain on the labour relations function.
Merger with a bigger organisation was seen as the way forward, with UNISON, the RCN, and MSF being the choices for serious discussions. The example MSF had set in providing a home for the Medical Practitioners Union was in its favour and in 1990 the HVA formerly merged. Of course the HVA was not the only union to see the benefit of merger – the ability to provide a wider range of services and share communal resources such as regional officers, legal and membership departments, etc., - and MSF itself embarked upon a merger strategy with the AEEU a couple of years ago. This strategy culminated in the launch of the new Amicus union on the first of January this year.
Recent discussions with the Amicus leadership have been fruitful, with a recognition that professional associations such as ours, and the others within the health sector, play a valuable part in attracting members and projecting an image of the union as a modern organisation well able to address both the professional and employment relations agenda of our rapidly changing NHS. In line with the philosophy of our organisational forebears though, we need to make the best of our combined strength and develop an organisational structure which both addresses the specific issues of relevance to our members and benefits from participation with others across the health sector.
In addition to being CPHVA Director, I now have responsibility for professional policy and practice development across the Amicus Health Sector, working with Gail Cartmail (Head of Health) to do just that.
We are now developing national structures through which the employment relations / industrial issues pertinent to all Amicus Health Sector members can be addressed in a common forum, whilst facilitating consideration of issues relevant to specific groups such as community practitioners and health visitors. At local level, all members should benefit from meeting colleagues from right across the health sector and working together within our NHS Branches. At the same time we will ensure provision continues to be made for specific professional issues to be considered locally.
Some of the more immediate changes you are facing are as a direct result of the MSF / AEEU merger into Amicus and the adoption of the union’s new rule book. The rules were discussed at length, every CPHVA centre received a draft copy, and a CPHVA delegation voted in favour of their adoption at the rules conference last summer. Producing a set of rules to form a governance structure for a whole new union was no mean feat, and to be honest what we have now is the best that could have been hoped for as we combined those of the two unions which now comprise Amicus. The rules apply right across the union, and every sector has had to adapt to their intent. We are merging a whole range of organisational systems and developing a workforce to support the work of the union, and you the members, in a more efficient and integrated way. I can’t pretend these changes are proceeding without glitches, organisational change of this magnitude requires a good deal of work internally and whilst I hope members will not be adversely affected too greatly I would ask that you bear with us as we create the modern union needed to meet your future needs.
A key point to end on is that all CPHVA members need to see themselves as members of Amicus too. In fact, the organisations are one and the same, with the CPHVA section being dedicated to providing professional advice and support in addition to influencing national policy to the benefit of yourselves, our NHS, and your patients and clients.