The Royal College of Nursing has passed a motion calling on its leaders to pressurise the government over proposed cuts to public health budgets, after a passionate debate in child health inequalities.
Nearly 100% of members voted at their annual conference to “lobby all UK governments to invest in our young people and end child health inequalities”.
The topic of child health inequalities had originally been submitted as a “matter for discussion” by the conference, but the strength of feeling among RCN members about the issue resulted in it being promoted to a resolution.
That this meeting of RCN Congress calls on council to lobby all UK governments to invest in our young people and end child health inequalities.
It follows growing concerns that cash-strapped councils will seek ways to cut-back on public health spending, after being handed control of commissioning services like school nursing and sexual health. They are due to take on responsibility for funding health visiting services later this year.
Anxiety has increased further still following a recent announcement from chancellor George Osborne suggesting that £200m in public health spending might be at risk from a new savings drive.
The issue was presented at congress initially by Rachel Hollis, from the RCN’s Children and Young People’s Specialist Care Forum.
“Reducing health inequalities and improving child health should be a priority for all UK governments”
The forum said the UK had fallen behind other countries in gains made on reducing infant deaths and mortality from non-communicable diseases.
“A series of reports have noted the low importance given to children’s health in the NHS,” the forum stated.
“Reducing health inequalities and improving child health should be a priority for all UK governments as well as for this college,” it added.
Rod Thomson, a former chair of congress and public health director, warned that proposed cuts to public health budgets would have negative impact on child health.
He called on ministers not to ignore the “fundamental evidence” linking investment and benefits to child health.
Similarly strong points were made by Jeni Watts about the importance of health visitors to tackling child health inequalities.
She raised concerns about the future of the universal health visiting service once it was commissioned by councils from the autumn.
Results of resolution calling for lobbying for investment in child health are:
For – 99.52% (414)
Against – 0.48% (2)
Abstain – 0% (3)