SENIOR health professionals say babies and children will be put in danger by Hampshire Council funding cuts.

They are pressing Hampshire County Council to think again about its controversial plans to slash its public health budget.

The council proposes to reduce the 0-19 Public Health Nursing Service budget by £2.09 million per year, cutting 47 posts or around 12 per cent of the service.

The cuts would mean fewer health visitors and school nurses and so less support for vulnerable families.

For children 0-5 years, all children will only get one face-to-face health review. All other reviews will be risk assessed to decide whether they should be completed face-to-face, by video or by telephone. In the past many children have received numerous supportive visits by health visitors.

School nurses would see no over-11s in person but only digitally.

In a letter to council leader Keith Mans, Sharon White, chief executive of the school and Public Health Nurses Association and Alison Morton, executive director of the Institute of Health Visitors, wrote: "As the national professional bodies representing school nursing and health visiting, we urge you to review the impact that the proposed changes will have on babies, children and their families. We believe there are several sets of grounds which, singly and severally, mean the County Council ought to review these plans."

They point out the cuts will undermine the Health Child Programme, a Government priority and the council will be unable to assure OFSTED that it is meeting its obligation to safeguard children and young people.

The iHV and SAPHNA say the whole health and social care system is interconnected and changes like these cannot be made without consideration of the wider impact.

They say the cuts like will harm children and create a ripple effect hitting other services like GPs, secondary care, and children’s social care.

Sharon White, chief executive of SAPHNA, said: “We have seen a number of recent and significant cuts to health visiting and school nursing services with more planned; this must stop. We are fully versed in the Governments budget cuts, reduced public health grant and cash-strapped councils with our services clearly seen as ‘easy pickings’ in trying to rectify; this false economy as only serves to kick the can down the road, resulting in increased costs to services to say nothing of the long-term impacts on children’s and families’ lives.

"We have more than enough evidence to demonstrate that our public health practice can and does make a vital difference. Hampshire’s proposals are radical, dangerous and a disservice to its population. We cannot and must not accept this.”

Alison Morton, executive director at the Institute of Health Visiting, said: “We should all be worried about what’s happening in Hampshire. The proposed changes represent an important national test case, rather than an isolated outlier that only needs to be addressed locally. The national Government’s response is that it’s down to local authorities to decide how they manage their budgets. Conversely, the local authorities’ perspective is that the cuts are due to a lack of government funding. Both are true – and the time has come to move beyond this stalemate and find a sustainable solution that puts babies, children, and their families first. Unless resolved, families ultimately bear the brunt of these cuts.”

Today, Hampshire County Council’s Executive Member for Adult Services and Public Health, Councillor Liz Fairhurst, said: “Firstly, it is important to understand that no decisions have been made whatsoever with regards to these services.


"In the area of Public Health, we have identified some possible options for savings, and we welcome the views of residents, health professionals and other stakeholders, contributed through our consultation.  These, together with a number of other factors, will be taken into full consideration later in the year when we consider which, if any, of the proposals could be taken forward. It would be inappropriate for me to comment any further at this stage in the process.”

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