Comment

Janet Davies: Health visitor cuts threatening children's futures

RCN general secretary Janet Davies warns cuts are undermining previous drive to recruit health visitors.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies warns cuts are undermining previous drive to recruit health visitors.

It feels as inevitable as the turning of the leaves that time of year when winter pressures begin to loom, with staff shortages a key part of the problem, and services paying the price of government cuts to training places.

The assumption is that if only there were more staff, they could help plug some of the many gaps in the nursing workforce.

But it isnt always that straightforward.

There are areas within nursing where we do have more staff but they arent being given the chance to do their work. Just look at health visiting.

This essential service plays a key role in the fight against preventable health problems. In 2010, the Coalition Government acknowledged its value,

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RCN general secretary Janet Davies warns cuts are undermining previous drive to recruit health visitors.

It feels as inevitable as the turning of the leaves – that time of year when winter pressures begin to loom, with staff shortages a key part of the problem, and services paying the price of government cuts to training places. 

Health
Shortage of health visitors. Photo: iStock

The assumption is that if only there were more staff, they could help plug some of the many gaps in the nursing workforce.

But it isn’t always that straightforward. 

There are areas within nursing where we do have more staff – but they aren’t being given the chance to do their work. Just look at health visiting. 

This essential service plays a key role in the fight against preventable health problems. In 2010, the Coalition Government acknowledged its value, and an extra 4,000 health visitors were trained as part of the Health Visitor Implementation Plan. 

Concerns over cuts

But cuts are now undermining those efforts. More than 500 posts have been removed from the health visiting workforce in 2016 alone, with further cuts to school nursing roles also causing concern. 

Losing children’s public health services has serious consequences. In the short term, already stretched services will face increased pressures, and families won’t be able to access the support they need.

Even worse is the longer-term impact, where childhood health problems will be left untreated into adulthood, putting even more pressure on the future health service. 

It was short-term thinking that resulted in cuts to nursing training places, and look how well that turned out. Health visiting is one of the few services which have more staff ready to work – but they need the opportunity to put their expert training into practice.

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