Organisations have voiced their concerns after a 25% cut to health visiting services in Suffolk was proposed.
Suffolk County Council has made decision about the health visiting services that they provide due to year on year cuts to the public health grant by central government. According to the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), Suffolk health visitors’ caseloads are expected to rise to three times the level recommended by the iHV, with each health visitor accountable for the care of around 750 children.
‘Local Authorities in England are being faced with some extremely difficult decisions as they redesign services within the shrinking financial envelope of the public health grant,’ said iHV Director of Policy and Quality Assurance, Alison Morton.
‘The situation has also not been helped by a national shortage of qualified health visitors and a drastic reduction in health visiting training places since the end of Call to Action in 2015. Public Health England has set out clear Commissioning Guidelines for 0-19 services to ensure an equitable service across England with a level of flex to enable services to adapt to the local context.
NHS Digital figures show there were 7,694 health visitors in England in January this year, a fall of 25 per cent since the peak of more than 10,000 in October 2015 when the Health Visitor Implementation Plan came to an end.
‘This shift of services to local government was intended to improve services for families,’ added Ms Morton. ‘However, we are now concerned that the new service models that are emerging are moving further and further away from this national model and the evidence base. It is important that we do not lose sight of the primary ambition of the Healthy Child Programme which is prevention and early intervention – identifying and supporting children and families at risk of poor outcomes. Whilst these service cuts might balance the books in the short term, the evidence is unequivocal, cutting evidence-based services is likely to prove much more costly in the long run.’