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Health visitor and school nurse jobs potentially at risk in Staffordshire

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Nearly 40 health visitor and school nurse jobs are potentially at risk in Staffordshire due to a redesign of services for children, unions have warned.

Affected staff are currently involved in a month-long consultation over workforce changes affecting the provision of children’s services in the county.

“They are talking about 37 redundancies to the school nursing and health visitor teams”

Frank Keogh

A new Children and Young People’s Health and Wellbeing Programme was launched in April across Staffordshire for children and young people aged between 0 to 19 years of age.

The service, provided by Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust, combines its health visiting and school nursing services into one and, from 2020, will also incorporate children’s centres.

The programme will provide universal, targeted and specialist care to families across Staffordshire and deliver the national Healthy Child Programme, said the trust.

In addition, it said it would improve school readiness and support healthy lifestyle development by offering a “balance of self-support, support from professions and from the wider community”.

“A piece of work has taken place to review the workforce within this service”

Julie Tanner

The redesign of services was agreed in 2015 and the contract awarded to the trust last year by Staffordshire County Council.

The union Unite, which includes the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, said nearly 40 job losses of health visitors and school nurses “were on the cards”.

It also warned that the county council was planning to cut a further £2.5m from the 0-19 years’ service for the current financial year.

Unite regional officer Frank Keogh said: “These cruel cuts are putting vital services, such as maternal and child mental health, child protection and domestic abuse, under even more severe strain.

“Recently implemented cuts have already hit hard in Staffordshire with the loss of children’s centres and support for breastfeeding mothers,” he said. “Now… councillors are coming back to take another £2.5m chunk from the already much reduced 0-19 years’ budget.

“This second financial hit will further reduce the numbers of health visitors and school nurses and therefore leave our children and families vulnerable,” he said. “They are talking about 37 redundancies to the school nursing and health visitor teams.

“This is at a time when families need support more than ever as the impact of the government’s austerity agenda continues to attack children and their services. Our health visitors and school nurses believe Staffordshire children deserve better than this,” he added.

“With less money to go around we do have make every penny count”

Alan White

Alan White, the council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for health, care and wellbeing, said: “The county council absolutely recognises the skill and expertise of health visiting and school nursing services and we want to make sure their support is offered where it is needed most.

“Our new Children and Young People Health and Wellbeing Programme brings these two services together under one roof so that we cut down on duplication and provide support that fits best with today’s modern families,” he said.

“With less money to go around we do have make every penny count and we will still be spending £9.4m on this new contract which will offer more targeted, additional support to the most vulnerable as well as making the best use of digital technology via advice hubs,” he said.

“Families will continue to see the health visiting team for assessments, support and review during pregnancy, after giving birth and during early years milestones and we are confident this new programme will offer support and advice to meet the need of busy families,” he added.

Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership said it was currently “working through a formal HR process to deliver a revised workforce” for the 0-19 programme (0-19), including health visitors and school nurses.

Julie Tanner, the trust’s director of workforce and development, said: “To ensure that the trust can provide the Children and Young People’s Health and Wellbeing programme (0-19) within the funding provided, a piece of work has taken place to review the workforce within this service.

“Staff are currently in a 30-day consultation period of which trade union colleagues have been informed of and engaged in,” she said.

“As an organisation we will continue to support all staff throughout this process and if required redeployment opportunities will be sought after through a Staffordshire wide redeployment service,” she added.

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