Reductions in the school nursing and health visiting workforce risk harming provision of children and young people’s health, the British Medical Association (BMA) has warned.
According to analysis by the BMA, the number of health visitors in England has decreased by 24% since 2015, while the number of school nurses in England has decreased by 13% since 2010. Additionally, spending on 5-19 children’s public health services in England has declined by 6% since 2016/17, and for mandated 0-5 children’s public health services by 5%
‘The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) is very pleased to see the concerns regarding the falling numbers of health visitors, and the inevitable impact on health visiting services highlighted by the BMA in their new report,’ said Cheryll Adams, Executive Director at the Institute of Health Visiting.
‘Doctors are well aware of the potential impacts on children’s lives when preventative services for children are disinvested in. It affects not only the child but all the services who may be needing to work with them with late referrals and diagnosis, not to mention an increase in demand elsewhere in the system. The iHV has been particularly concerned by the very worrying increase in children entering safeguarding and care systems, as also highlighted in the report, something a properly resourced health visiting service will help to prevent.’
The BMA is calling on the government to ensure that child health is prioritised, with a cross-party ‘healthy childhood strategy’ set up, supported with coordinated investment in services. Additionally the organisation is urging the Government to commit in its March 2020 Budget to reversing cuts to local authority children’s services and public health budgets in England.
‘This excellent report echoes our own view that a truly preventative approach to health requires a cross-government focus on improving the social conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age. This ‘health in all policies’ approach could drastically improve the outcomes and experiences of children and young people,’ said President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health Professor Russell Viner.
‘At the same time, the Government needs to reverse the current trends in health inequality by increasing public health funding and, at the very least, bringing funding of this sector back to former levels until there has been a clear impact assessment of the effects of the most recent cuts.’