Nurses have been advised to personally approach council directors of public health and local health and wellbeing boards to ensure frontline concerns are considered as cuts are implemented.
Meanwhile, national public health officials will not stop “banging the drum” for investment in prevention by local authorities, despite the expectation of further deep cuts, community nurses have also been told.
“We will not let up about the importance of investment in prevention and, from our point of view, health visitors are crucial to it and so are other community practitioners”
However, at an event yesterday, community practitioners heard that officials were so far “having an impact in some places in England more than others” at preventing cuts to public health funding.
Earlier this month, the Department of Health announced details of the £200m in-year cut to the public health grant it provides to local councils, which were first trailed in the summer, saying a reduction of 6.2% would be applied evenly to each authority.
Meanwhile, at the annual Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association conference in Manchester yesterday, delegates heard local councils were planning for an additional £10bn overall to be slashed from their budgets following next week’s spending review.
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Andrew Webster, director for care and health improvement at the Local Government Association – which represents around 350 English councils – warned that, for some, this level of cut would mean they were unable to even provide some statutory services.
He said local authorities had already seen around a 25% real reduction to their budget in the last comprehensive spending review, five years ago.
Meanwhile, he added, that local government was aware of the existing shortage of frontline community nurses with the right skills to deliver the “whole person” care required.
Also speaking at the conference, Public Health England’s head of healthcare Raymond Jankowski was questioned by a health visitor about the recent transfer of commissioning for 0-5 services from the NHS to local councils.
The nurse, from London, said she feared the additional money local councils would now be receiving would be used to “shore up” local authority shortfalls in funding.
“At the time of this commissioning change, there is a massive cut in funding to local authorities and it’s the worst time ever for health visiting to be transferring over,” she said.
Mr Jankowski said PHE’s work with local directors of public health to fight for funding was “having an impact in some places in England more than others”.
“Our job nationally is to work with our directors of public health locally to keep on banging the drum about the importance of prevention and investment in it,” he said.
Public health nurses advised to fight budget cuts themselves
“We will not let up about the importance of investment in prevention and, from our point of view, health visitors are crucial to it and so are other community practitioners,” he added.
When asked by another health visitor how community nurses could stop the cuts falling on public health, he advised individuals to approach directors of public health directly, or to present evidence to local health and wellbeing boards.
“If possible, try to see if you can find somebody who can get a report to your health and wellbeing board. Because all the right players are sitting at that table,” he said.
“It is chaired by a councillor who is democratically elected. You’ve got your clinical commissioning group represented there, often with their chair or chief executive You’ve also got chief executives from the council, and those from the voluntary sector. So there’s quite a lot to play for,” Mr Jankowski said.