Demonstrators will gather outside the East Yorkshire headquarters of the Humber NHS Foundation Trust tomorrow (February 1), to protest against plans to slash health visitors and school nurses by 25 per cent.
The protesters, which will include Unite members, health campaigners and concerned families, are fearful of the damaging impact the reduction in specialist help will have on babies and children.
The cuts, which have been handed down to Humber NHS Foundation Trust from local authority commissioners, are part of brutal nationwide budget reductions to the NHS and local authority services enacted by the Tory government.
The demonstrators, who are urging the trust’s board members to rethink their plans to slash £500,000 from the specialist public health nursing budget, will gather as the board meets to discuss the cuts.
Under the proposed plans, the number of full time equivalent health visitors will fall from 51.3 to 38.64, while school nurses will be cut by 3 per cent to just over six full time equivalent roles.
“Over the course of a year health visitors and school nurses working for Humber NHS Foundation Trust help thousands of families throughout the area.
“Because of the trust’s deep cuts this support and specialist help for families in greater need will be reduced alongside support for issues like domestic violence and safeguarding,” said Unite regional officer Malcolm Hancock.
“It’s a totally self-defeating move which will harm children’s health and end up costing the trust more in the long run because of a reduction in preventative health measures.
“Coming at a time when child health in the UK is falling behind many other European countries, we would urge the trust to think again and ditch its plans to slash this vital service.”
A report by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health published last week found that young people in the UK had low wellbeing compared with other comparable countries.
The State of Child Health report also found that poverty left children from deprived backgrounds with far worse health and wellbeing than children growing up in affluent families. In 2015-16, 40 per cent of children in England’s most deprived areas were overweight or obese, compared with 27 per cent in the most affluent areas.
Unite lead professional officer, Dave Munday, said people in poorer areas are more likely to suffer the effects of austerity measures upon community health services because their local authorities and NHS services have been hit disproportionately hard.
Kids mustn’t suffer
“Local authorities and NHS organisations are in a terrible position, but ultimately we need to make sure that kids don’t suffer. What’s concerning is that the local authorities that have the hardest jobs in the poorest areas are having to cope with the biggest cuts because of the way the Conservatives have implemented the changes to their funding,” Munday explained.
“Health visitors and school nurses work in huge range of complex situations within the community – from perinatal mental health to domestic abuse and child protection – and they perform a vital role.”
He added, “Last year we asked for comments from parents about their experiences with health visitors. They ranged from ‘they were really helpful and reassured me that everything was OK’ to ‘if it wasn’t for my local health visitor I wouldn’t be alive now because I would have committed suicide.”