Three leading healthcare editors are urging politicians and stakeholders to address the six fundamental threats to midwifery, health visiting and school nursing.
The editors of the British Journal of Midwifery, the Journal of Health Visiting and the British Journal of School Nursing have said that an ageing workforce, inadequate recruitment, heavy caseloads, low staffing levels, lack of training and lack of fair pay is damaging the workforce.
If these issues are not addressed then the health of children and young people will suffer as a result, the editors said in a joint article published across the three journals.
Madeleine Murphy, editor of Journal of Health Visiting, said: 'There is a wealth of evidence demonstrating that a child's early experiences influence health and wellbeing throughout life, so it is essential for the future of our society that we ensure children and families get the best start.
'Integrated working and continuity of care among the midwifery, health visiting and school nursing workforces can provide a coherent approach to tackling the most pressing public health issues in modern life—such as obesity, poor mental health and substance misuse—and reducing the burden of ill health.'
Despite the fact that unions have agreed a pay deal with the DH, the article states that more work needs to be done to secure fair pay for all nurses in line with rising living costs. An ageing workforce could also lead to a serious deficit in children's and young people's nursing if recruitment measures are not put in place.
Sophie Gardner, editor of British Journal of Midwifery, said: 'It is a well known fact that maternity claims represent the highest value and the third highest number of clinical negligence claims to the NHS Litigation Authority, yet the workforce remains grossly understaffed. It seems obvious that increasing the workforce numbers, will not only help to deliver safe care to both mothers and their babies but also reduce the number of claims on the NHS thus free up funds to deliver fair pay for all.'
Ongoing training and CPD is patchy across the country for all nurses, yet they would benefit from targeted training in areas of specific need such as mental health. Caroline Voogd, editor of British Journal of School Nursing, said: 'It is estimated that mental illness costs the UK over £100 billion per year and mental health services are struggling to cope. A well-trained and well-resourced midwifery, health visiting and school nursing workforce could help prevent many mental health problems escalating and reducing the costs and strain on mental health services.'
The article calls on government to have a long term vision on boosting these workforces in order to ensure the health of future generations and reduce the cost burden on the NHS. Ms Murphy concludes: 'A governmental commitment to long-term investment would ensure that midwives, health visitors and school nurses can continue to perform their roles effectively. They have the skills and dedication; they just need the political will to safeguard the services they provide.'