VULNERABLE children are still in danger due to a shortage of health visitors, according to a union.

Unite is calling for an immediate investigation into a staffing crisis in areas such as Leyton and Leytonstone.

The Guardian revealed in February last year that staffing cuts were causing grave concern as health visitors play a vital role in protecting vulnerable children from the kind of abuse suffered by Baby Peter and Victoria Climbie.

But although the primary care trust promised to address health worker shortages, Unite says its research shows parts of the borough are among a number of areas in London where there is a staff crisis.

Waltham Forest health visitor Norma Dudley says the number of staff dedicated to the under-fives is still below the levels recommended by the Laming Report, which was commissioned following the death of Baby Peter.

Speaking at a council meeting, she said: "We require more staff to provide a safe service.

"Current case loads are three times higher than recommended in the Laming Report.

"The birth rate is currently rising and thus if problems are not addressed then the situation will worsen.

"As Waltham forest has a high number of black and minority ethnic and eastern European young families, the work of the Health Visitor is more complex than usually found."

Sub-committee chairman Cllr James O'Rourke he believes caseloads for health visitors are still generally too high following the Laming report, which called for urgent reforms in child protection.

Unite is sponsoring a House of Commons early day motion calling for an immediate investigation into staffing levels in London.

Unite national officer for health Karen Reay said: “John Donnell's early day motion is very welcome and adds to the growing realisation that health visitors are essential when supporting families and their health needs.

“They also play a vital role in child protection and ensuring that there are no more tragic Baby P cases.”

A spokesman for Outer North East London Community Services (ONEL), which provides health visitors in Waltham Forest, said: "There is a national shortage of qualified health visitors.

"Outer North East London Community Services is working very closely with staff, unions, commissioners and the local authority to ensure that we are an attractive organisation that health visitors wish to work for."

He added ONEL is implementing a task force that is looking at best recruitment practice in a bid to boost numbers in the borough.

Follow the Waltham Forest Guardian on Twitter - click here.