‘Savage’ cuts made to health visiting

Friday, October 19, 2018

The numbers of NHS health visitors are now at their lowest level since October 2012 and have been cut by eight per cent this year.

New figures reveal that the number of NHS health visitors has declined by eight per cent during the past year, while the number of school nurses has been slashed by nearly a quarter since May 2010.

Unveiling these findings at the annual conference held by Unite and the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA) in Bournemouth on 17 October, Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, described the cuts to health visitor and school nurses as ‘savage’, resulting in ‘shameful’ national inequalities in standards of care received by children.

He reported that Unite’s recent analysis shows health visitors are now struggling with dangerously high caseloads.

‘For example, health visitors in the London borough of Hounslow have average caseloads of 829 children under five- the highest in England,’ he said. ‘Similarly, health visitors in Luton and Peterborough are each looking after 756 children, while in Croydon, south London, it is 591.

‘We know from an Institute of Health Visiting survey that more than one in five health visitors are working with caseloads of over 500 children. This is a stark deterioration compared with one in eight, reported in a similar survey conducted in 2015.’

Analysis by the Labour Party of the NHS Workforce Statistics has found:

  • In June 2018 there were 7,910 health visitors working in the NHS.
  • Numbers are now at their lowest level since October 2012.
  • Since June 2017 there has been a fall of 678 health visitors, equivalent to 57 a month, and down from 8,588.
  • This is an 8 per cent reduction in one year.

Labour says its research suggests that public health will be cut by £96.3 million due to cuts to local authority budgets from central Government. As part of that smoking cessation bedgets are set to fall by £3.1 million, placing increased pressure on health visitors to discourage mothers from smoking in pregnancy.

‘Britain lags behind on child outcomes’
Labour’s warning follows a Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health report released earlier this week, flagging up that child health outcomes in Britain are lagging behind most other high-income countries on obesity rates, tooth decay and mortality.

Meanwhile a report from the Children’s Commissioner’s Office, A Crying Shame, flags up an urgent need to address the high number of babies currently living in high-risk households. The report recommends increasing the number of mandatory visits for families where known risk factors are present; improvement in referral pathways from health visitors to health professionals and children’s services and close monitoring of the adequacy of provision of health visitors now that funding for them has transferred to local authorities.


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