Proposed cuts to health visiting, school nursing and sexual health services in Hampshire are the latest example of the swingeing cuts to public health services in England that directly undermine Boris Johnson’s so-called ‘levelling up’ agenda, Unite the union said on Thursday (June 17).
Hampshire County Council has opened a consultation, which closes on Monday 9 August, on saving £6.8 million from the public health budget of £52 million for 2021/22, due to a further funding squeeze from central government.
The council is looking at what it calls ‘a blended model of delivery’ which could see, in some cases, stopping or reducing services in four areas: substance misuse treatment; the Smokefree Hampshire programme; sexual health services; and in 0-19 years public health nursing which could hit health visiting and school nursing.
Earlier this week, Unite highlighted plans by Stoke-on-Trent council to slash £1 million from the children and young people services’ budget, which could see about 10 health visitors and school nurses lose their jobs.
Unite lead officer for health in the south east Jesika Parmar said, “The proposed cuts to public health funding in Hampshire will have a very detrimental impact on the provision of vital health visiting and school nursing services to families with children; individuals seeking sexual health advice; those with substance abuse issues; and the many people wishing to give up smoking.
“Such cuts can be traced back to central government and the unrelenting squeeze on public health funding that the Tory government has implemented since 2010,” she added. “If these drastic cutbacks go ahead, it will make a mockery of the prime minister’s much vaunted, but rarely seen ‘levelling up’ agenda for those in economic and social need.
“Unfortunately, the Hampshire proposals are just the tip of the iceberg of what has happened to public health services in England after they became the responsibility of local authorities in April 2013,” Parmar continued. “The cutbacks in Stoke-on-Trent in the West Midlands are another example of this invidious trend.
“In the run up to the end of the consultation on 9 August, Unite will be campaigning to raise awareness of the risks to public health that these plans pose and the urgent need to reverse them.”
By Shaun Noble