Protests mount against swingeing cuts to children’s health services

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If Jeremy Hunt is as keen on preventative health care and ‘care in the community’ as he claims to be, why is his NHS slashing health visitors and school nurses?

Image: Unite members protest cuts to health visitors and school nurses

Health workers, campaigners and concerned families are protesting in Humber over the NHS Foundation Trust’s plans to slash health visitors and
school nurses by 25 per cent, in a symptom of the growing public
health crisis across England.

It
seems a long time since the
.

Since
then there’s b
een
a massive sleight of hand.
The
public health budgets that pay for health visitors, school nurses and
community nurses have been transferred from the NHS to local
authorities, already hard-pressed after years of funding cuts since
2010.

These
budgets should in theory be ring-fenced, but in practice what is
deemed as ‘public health’ is open to interpretation and,
therefore, at the mercy of council bosses desperately trying to
juggle resources.

This
is the kernel of the problem at the Humber trust, which serves nearly
600,000 people. The trust was awarded a three-year contract to
provide ‘integrated specialist public health nursing service’ for
East Riding council due to start on 1 April.

But
because of government cuts the contract was slashed by
half
a million pounds. In response Unite members have been protesting,
fearful
of the damaging impact that the reduction in specialist help will
have on babies and children.

600,000 l

Under
the current plans the number of full time equivalent health visitors
will fall from 51 to 3
9,
while school nurses will be cut by
a
third – leaving just
six
full time equivalent
posts.

These
deep c
uts
mean
reducing

support and specialist help for families in greater need,
and
reducing s
upport
for issues like domestic violence and safeguarding.

The
government talks a lot about how the NHS should focus on ‘prevention’
and ‘care in the community’ – but the cuts to preventative
community based care in Humber and elsewhere give the lie to such
statements. These cuts are a

totally self-defeating move which will harm children’s health and
end up costing the trust more in the long run.

Already,
child
health in the UK is falling behind many other European countries.
Unite
members are urging the
trust
to think again and ditch its plans to slash this vital service.

A
report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health published
last month found that .

The
State of Child Health also found that poverty left children from
deprived backgrounds with far worse health and wellbeing than
children growing up in affluent families.

In
2015-16, 40 per cent of children in England’s most deprived areas
were overweight or obese, compared with 27 per cent in the most
affluent areas.

The
NHS is facing a twin onslaught by this hard-hearted Tory government –
the health service is being starved of the cash it needs in real
terms to tackle increasing demand and an expanding population.

Headline
figure’ rises, so beloved by health secretary Jeremy Hunt, are not
the same as the ‘real’ annual increases necessary to shore up the
creaking health and social care system.

The
second threat is the accelerating privatisation of the NHS for the
benefit of profit-hungry health companies which will contribute to a
fragmented health service and a diminution in service delivery.

That’s
why the fight on the Humber is so important – a stand needs to be
made not just in that region, but across England
.

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