Standing in support of families with babies and young children, the local York community joined Unite members in a demonstration yesterday (March 30) against proposals by the city council to axe community nurses by about 16 per cent.
The plans to slash health visitors and school nurses could see up to 10 full-time equivalent jobs at risk, which would hit young families, especially the most vulnerable, the hardest.
Unite regional officer Mark Fieldhouse hailed last night’s demonstration, noting that it was “very well attended.”
“We had scores of people out and had the full backing of four councillors who joined us and gave speeches,” he said.
Fieldhouse said that after talks with the employer yesterday (March 30) he was optimistic.
“We managed to extend the consultation period until the end of April, which gives us more time,” he explained. “Talks so far have been good – we’ve managed to turn something negative into something I believe will have positive results.”
Fieldhouse (pictured above) explained exactly what was at stake – not just in York but across the nation, after responsibility for community nurses was transferred from the NHS to local authorities, which face massive funding cuts from central government.
“Unite has said that local government is the ‘forgotten cousin’ when it comes to funding from Whitehall – but we don’t see why the public health agenda underpinned by health visitors and school nurses should be sacrificed on the altar of cuts imposed by a Tory government,” he said.
“Nationally, since 2010, local government has faced the brunt of the cuts to public spending with 37 per cent cut from the local government budget between 2010 and 2015, with a further 56 per cent due to be axed by 2019/20.
Fieldhouse noted that in York, a major problem is that the city council seems unsure of the true extent of its community nurse workforce.
“We understand that up to 10 full-time equivalent jobs could be at risk, but we are pressing the council hard as to exactly what its plans are and the numbers of jobs under threat,” he said.
“What families with young children are facing is no role for school nurses, removing the link between health and education,” he added. “Health promotion focusing on sex education, and smoking and drug abuse will be much diminished.
“The infant feeding co-ordinator role is disappearing, leaving no support for mothers struggling with breastfeeding.
“To top it all, the already hard-pressed community nurses face having their pay and employment conditions much reduced by moves to put them on City of York Council salary scales, when we believe that staff should remain on NHS terms and conditions.”
Fieldhouse urged the people of York, who believe in a “vibrant and progressive ‘healthy child service’” to pledge their support as the fight to save community nursing goes on.
Stay tuned on UNITElive for updates as talks with York City Council continue.