Families with children and babies in Shropshire face swingeing cuts to health visiting services, Unite has warned.
Unite said that proposals could see the number of specialist community nurse posts, mainly senior health visitors, being cut by 19.5 whole time equivalent (WTE) posts, with the resulting negative impact on families, often the most vulnerable in the community.
Unite said cuts, understood to be £600,000 a year, being demanded by Shropshire county council in the proposed contract for Shropshire Community Health NHS Trust, due to start on October 11, should be reversed.
“This is the thin end of the wedge and we are calling on the Shropshire public to make its collective voice heard before the consultation process ends on September 8, so these proposed cuts are stopped in their tracks,” said Unite regional officer Stuart Baker.
“The rhetoric is to improve services, but the actual agenda is to drive through cuts estimated to be £600,000 a year – or a 14.3 per cent budget cut for these services. The health visiting and school nursing services now come under the public health budget which resides with local authorities.
“What we are faced with is a tsunami of cuts to health visiting, school nursing and community nursery nurses in Shropshire.
“Without the support for breastfeeding; supporting maternal mental health; early intervention for developmental problems; early work to intervene and prevent families entering the child protection arena; we are creating a cruel society which perpetuates health inequalities among the most vulnerable.
“The plan is get rid of the specialist health visitors and replace them with less well-qualified staff who may not be trained to pick up these serious problems,” he added.
“It makes a savage mockery of the Tory government’s investment in the implementation plan to increase the health visitor workforce and is yet again evidence of a lack of foresight and empathy by health secretary Jeremy Hunt in considering the long term consequences on the future health of the nation”.
Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), is holding a series of meetings with its health visitor, school nurse and community nursery nurse members beginning August 24.
Unite points to the irony that the first meeting is being held in the middle of Health Visitor Week (August 21-25) which is designed to promote the important role of health visiting across the country.
Unite lead professional officer Jane Beach added, “Just last week Nursing & Midwifery Council chief executive Jackie Smith called on nurse leaders to address the staffing issues.
“I would go further and question why our nurse leaders, nationally and at local level, are not standing up for specialist nurses.
“Instead what is happening is directors of nursing in trusts in England are implementing new models of community public health nursing services that are removing specialist nurse posts with reckless abandon.”