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Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Labour warn over 'savage' cuts to number of health visitors in England

Written by Ella Pickover

There have been "savage" cuts to the number of health visitors in England, Labour has warned.

New analysis by the party suggests the number of health visitors has been cut by 8% in just one year.

It said babies and toddlers are missing out on vital health checks as a result.

Labour said that in June 2017 there were 8,588 health visitors and in June this year the figure stood at 7,910.

The party's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said that as well as cuts to health visiting staff, the number of school nurses has also fallen - it estimates the number of school nurses has decreased by 24.7% since May 2010.

In an address to the Unite/CPHVA Conference Mr Ashworth is expected to say: "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."

Labour has pledged to introduce an additional mandated health visit at 3-4 months if it is elected to power, and will commit additional money to help fulfil the pledge.

Commenting on the figures, Sue Warner, member of the Royal College of Nursing's council and a health visitor, said: "Month after month this vital workforce dwindles, leaving children without the support and care they need.

"If health visitors and school nurses are not available when families need them, they may be more likely to book a GP appointment or visit A&E when they don't need to, putting more pressure on these overstretched services.

"Our population is growing, we cannot ignore the cuts to preventative public health services and nursing shortages across the NHS, public health and social care."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman 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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