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Baby loss debate sparks concerns about health visiting shortage

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Baby loss debate sparks health visting concern Cuts to public health budgets could put babies at risk

Unite the union has raised concerns that further budget cuts to the health visiting service could impact on sudden infant deaths.

Following a backbench debate during Baby Loss Awareness Week, the union has said that this highlights the crucial role of health visitors in preventing deaths.

The latest area of concern is Worcestershire where there is continuing speculation that the number of health visitors could be slashed by 25%. Unite has condemned the move as 'short-sighted'.

Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said that they welcomed this debate as it 'underlines the importance of health visiting in helping this particularly vulnerable cohort of families at this very difficult time for them'.

'The number of new health visitors that was promised under the Coalition government has not been sustained; there have been cuts in public health budgets with health visiting not being ‘ring fenced’; and the threat that such services will be outsourced will spark ‘a race to the bottom’. We have all the ingredients for a perfect storm,' she added.

In a briefing for MPs, The Lullaby Trust, said that 230 babies under the age of one died suddenly without a cause in 2014.

The briefing said that the Trust is ‘deeply concerned’ by the adverse impact on extremely vulnerable families, who have experienced a sudden bereavement, as health visiting is reduced.

Unite said that if the health visitor implementation plan, which called for 4200 extra health visitors, had been reached there should have been 12,348 by March 2015, but there were only 12,077, a shortfall of 271. In September 2015 that figure had gone down to 11,895 in England.

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