Early years services need financial help to reduce child poverty and inequality

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health warns of ‘catastrophe’ by 2030 if early years public health services are not prioritised

Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health warns of ‘catastrophe’ by 2030 if early years public health services are not prioritised

Picture: John Houlihan

School nursing and health visiting should be a government priority if it wants to prevent a ‘catastrophic picture’ by 2030, a report warns.

The warning is set out in the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health’s (RCPCH) State of Child Health. England – Two Years On report, which considers whether any progress has been made since the college’s landmark report on child health across the UK in 2017.

The RCPCH states that early years public health services should be prioritised and supported financially, with targeted help for children and families in poverty.

The report also highlights a lack of any mention of the role of school nursing or paediatric services in the new mental health support teams for children and young people, which were proposed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) in 2017 and which started recruiting last year.

The RCN has echoed the views of the RCPCH about health visitors and school nurses, describing their state as ‘perilous’.

Falling staff numbers

RCN professional lead for children and young people Fiona Smith said: ‘Improving the health of children should be a major priority for every government in the UK.

‘This report highlights the important progress that has been made. However, the elephant in the room remains the perilous state of the parts of the nursing workforce who work directly with children and their families, including mental health nurses and nurses who work with children and young people in hospital.

‘Since 2010, health visitors and school nurses have seen their numbers plummet by the thousands.

‘This means vulnerable children are continuing to miss out on essential physical and mental health interventions, storing problems up for them and the health service further down the line.’

She warned that the government can no longer ignore the effects of its ‘sustained and illogical public health cuts’, which by 2020 will mean £531 million cut from the public health grant in five years.

A DH spokesperson said: ‘As this report makes clear, the mental and physical health of our children and young people is a priority for this government.’

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