Health visitor numbers at their lowest since 2012

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The number of health visitors has fallen by 8 per cent in a year and is now at its lowest level for six years, according to new analysis by the Labour party.

health-visitor-crop

Figures also show that there have been 'steep cuts’ to NHS school nurses and community nursery nurses.

jonathan-ashworthAt the annual conference held by Unite and the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association (CPHVA) in Bournemouth today (Wednesday 17 October), Jonathan Ashworth, (right), shadow health and social care secretary, will call for the Government’s NHS Long Term Plan to ‘put our children first.’ 

He will describe health visitor and school nurse cuts as ‘savage’, resulting in ‘shameful’ national inequalities in standards of care received by children.

Mr Ashworth will also reiterate Labour’s pledge to introduce an additional mandated health visit at three to four months.

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.

The call follows a Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) report released earlier this week, warning that child health outcomes in Britain are lagging behind most other high-income countries on obesity rates, tooth decay and mortality.

Labour also said there have been ‘steep cuts’ to NHS school nurses and community nursery nurses, including:

  • A 24.7 per cent reduction in NHS school nurses between May 2010 (2,987 nurses) and June 2018 (2,248), the equivalent of 739 nurses.
  • An estimated 15.4 per cent reduction in NHS community nursery nurses, from 2,229 nurses in May 2010 to 1,885 in June 2018, the equivalent of 344 nurses.

The shadow health and social care secretary will tell delegates at the conference today, ‘Health visitors play a crucial role in caring for vulnerable children and their mothers from the very beginning of life. We know that early intervention and the first 1,001 days of life are critical in a child’s development, a fact this Government is blatantly turning a blind eye towards.

‘Yet savage cuts to health visitors, school nurses and community nursery nurses is another betrayal of our children. The truth is that the Government’s unprecedented cuts are dismantling the country's public health system, failing some of the most vulnerable in our society and leaving children’s services at risk.

‘This week we learnt from the RCPCH of the potentially tragic consequences of failing to invest in children and the services they rely on. 

‘Today Labour is challenging ministers to reverse cuts to public health prevention budgets and guarantee the NHS Long Term plan puts our children first.’

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said, ‘Every child deserves the best start in life – that’s why they are offered five mandated health visitor checks before they are two and a half, and further support is provided as children grow up.

‘Improving the health of our children will be pivotal in our long term plan for the NHS, which we’re backing with additional funding of an extra £20.5 billion a year by 2023/24.’

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