Campaigners in Manchester have launched a petition calling on commissioners and providers to reverse a decision to scrap the city’s long-running family nurse partnership (FNP).
The petition and an open letter from local union representatives claim that disbanding the service currently delivered by Manchester Central NHS Foundation Trust will mean vulnerable families being “abandoned and left at risk”, and is a “false economy”.
“There is significant concern that this decision was made with little insight”
According to the Unite Central Manchester Health Branch, trust staff were told of the decision to de-commission family nurse teams last month after a 12-week consultation period.
“None of the FNP team or service users were approached for information when Central Manchester Foundation Trust and Manchester City Council were consulting about this withdrawal of the service,” it said in a letter.
“There is significant concern that this decision was made with little insight into FNP,” stated the letter addressed to council officials, councillors and local clinical commissioning groups.
The move to get rid of the FNP, which has been working with first-time young mothers in Manchester for 10 years, follows cuts to funding for public health services in the city.
As reported earlier this month by Nursing Times, Manchester City Council is seeking to make savings as part of plans to integrate key 0-19 health services with other early intervention work.
Unite claimed that families currently supported by family nurses will be added to the caseloads of health visitors responsible for doing standard health checks for all babies and toddlers, who “would have very limited capacity to support the complex needs of this client group”.
“FNP has been established in Manchester since 2007 and has been able to make a massive difference to the lives of vulnerable young families,” said the letter.
“The top-down decision to slash the service had been made without consulting any of the young people that use the service, showing a complete disregard to their voice and their right to consultation over the future and the future of their child,” it added.
“Ongoing financial challenges within the NHS mean that we have to prioritise services”
A petition on the website change.org calling for the scheme to be saved has already attracted more than 1,150 supporters.
In a joint statement, the council and foundation trust said they were working together on a new model of care, but acknowledged that funding cuts meant they had to “prioritise services”.
They told Nursing Times that families currently helped by the FNP would continue to get support.
“Manchester City Council is working in partnership with Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to remodel its children’s early years services and develop a new model of care that will reach out and cater for a wider range of vulnerable families across the city,” they said.
“It is important that all vulnerable families with children of any age, including vulnerable first time teenage mothers, have access to intensive support from health professionals who can deliver better outcomes across the city,” they said. “We will ensure that current users of the FNP service continue to have the appropriate level of support.
Campaign to keep under-threat Manchester family nurses
“A significant reduction in the national public health grant and ongoing financial challenges within the NHS mean that we have to prioritise services to benefit local people in the most effective way,” added the statement.
The city council estimates it could save £500,000 in 2018-19 with a new health visitor contract that would place greater emphasis on health visitors acting as “lead workers” for families with young children in need of extra support.
It is one of the options being considered in a consultation on the council’s budget.
The new model of care being explored by the partners would see health visitors, early years workers and school staff operating out of “children and family hubs” based in or next to schools.
Councils across the country are currently looking at potential changes to public health nursing services.
The drive to redesign services including health visiting and school nursing comes amid swingeing cuts to the amount of money allocated to local authorities for public health.