17/10/2018 00:01 BST

Health Visitors And School Nurses Subject To 'Savage' Cuts, Says Labour

Vital health checks missed as a result, says party.

PA Wire/PA Images

Babies and toddlers are missing out on vital checks because of “savage” cuts to the number of school nurses and health visitors, according to research by Labour. 

New analysis by the party suggests the number of health visitors has been cut by 8% in just one year.

Labour said that in June 2017 there were 8,588 health visitors and in June this year the figure stood at 7,910.

Shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth said there has also been a 24.7% cut in NHS school nurses since May 2010 - the equivalent of 739 posts. 

In an address to the Unite/CPHVA Conference, Ashworth said: “Health visitors play a crucial role in caring for vulnerable children and their mothers from the very beginning of life.

“We know that early intervention and the first 1,001 days of life are critical in a child’s development, a fact this Government is blatantly turning a blind eye towards.

“Yet savage cuts to health visitors, school nurses and community nursery nurses is another betrayal of our children.”

The research exposed massive differences in the service offered in different regions. 

The study showed 11.5% of babies missed out on a newborn visit, for example, but, the figure was 17.2% in the South West of England. 

Just 60.2% of babies in London received a one-year check, with figures as low as 1.3% in Enfield and 12.3% in Islington.

And in the North East, 90.1% of babies received a two and a half year check, compared to just 76.9% in the West Midlands and 62.6% in London 

Labour has pledged to introduce an additional mandated health visit at three-to-four months if it is elected to power, and will commit additional money to help fulfil the pledge.

Sue Warner, member of the Royal College of Nursing’s council and a health visitor, said: “Month after month this vital workforce dwindles, leaving children without the support and care they need.

“If health visitors and school nurses are not available when families need them, they may be more likely to book a GP appointment or visit A&E when they don’t need to, putting more pressure on these overstretched services.

“Our population is growing, we cannot ignore the cuts to preventative public health services and nursing shortages across the NHS, public health and social care.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokeswoman said: “Every child deserves the best start in life - that’s why they are offered five mandated health visitor checks before they are two and a half, and further support is provided as children grow up.

“Improving the health of our children will be pivotal in our long term plan for the NHS, which we’re backing with additional funding of an extra £20.5 billion a year by 2023/24.”