Public health nursing cuts ‘will be felt for generations’

Congress backs call to lobby government to reverse ‘short-sighted’ funding cuts in England

The ‘devastating’ cuts to funding for public health nursing in England must stop, RCN congress heard.

Denise Thiruchelvam: Cuts amount
to ‘lives ruined’. Picture: John Houlihan

Delegates called on the RCN to lobby the UK government to reverse the funding cuts, which in England amount to £200 million since 2015.

Congress also urged action on the falling numbers of health visitors and school nurses, with the latter decreasing by 16% in the seven years to 2017.

Impact on other services

RCN Devon branch member Jeni Watts told the meeting in Belfast: 'As they reduce our service we need to look at the impact, not just on people but on other services that now face an increased workload. The effects of these cuts will be seen in months to come and generations to come.’

RCN public health forum member Denise Thiruchelvam added that the budget cuts amount to ‘lives ruined, stunted or even ended – unless we act now to protect our public health nurses’.

Heather Henry, of Central Manchester branch, argued that public health nurses were economical as well as adding social value.

Jeni Watts addresses congress.
Picture: John Houlihan

Ellen Nicholson, a member of the RCN general practice nurse forum, warned that when public health nurses are axed their work does not just disappear, but is absorbed by GP practices.

Shropshire and Herefordshire director of public health and RCN deputy president Rod Thomson said that, in his area, funding for public health nursing is £39 per head of population. This compares to a national average of £59 per head, while one London borough has a budget of £135 per head of population, he said.

He won loud applause when he added: ‘Every area of preventative healthcare is under attack from this short-sighted government… at best it’s stupid, at worst it’s potentially criminal. And it has to stop.’

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