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Public health cuts pose risk to children

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Childhood obesity is potentially damaging Childhood obesity is potentially damaging

Progress has been made on children’s health, but cuts and political uncertainty risk this, a report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said.

The report cites developments such as substantial investment in community-based mental health services, and access to weight management services in primary care for obese children as areas to be celebrated. As well as this, reducing child mortality and strengthen tobacco control are also lauded.

‘Improving the health of children should be a major priority for every government in the UK and this report highlights the important progress that has been made,’ said RCN Professional Lead for Children and Young People, Fiona Smith.

However, the report also reveals that England continues to lag behind other Western European countries on a range of child health outcomes and notes areas for improvement, particularly in universal public health provision, with specific reference to inequality. The report states that universal early years’ services continue to bear the brunt of cuts to public health services, with no targeted help provided for children and families experiencing poverty.

‘However, the elephant in the room remains the perilous state of the parts of the nursing workforce that work directly with children and their families, including mental health nurses and nurses who work with children and young people in hospital. Since 2010, health visitors and school nurses have seen their numbers plummet by the thousands. This means vulnerable children are continuing to miss out on essential physical and mental health interventions, storing problems up for them and the health service further down the line.’

‘The Government can no longer ignore the effects of its sustained and illogical public health cuts which between by 2020 will have seen £531million cut from the public health grant in just five years,’ added Ms Smith. ‘These cuts have prevented local authorities from recruiting and retaining the nursing staff that children and families need and sucked vital funds out of the services they work in.’

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