Plans to “axe up to 60” health visitors in part of the East Midlands will “hit deprived families”, a union has warned today.
It has criticised plans to cut 38 whole-time equivalent health visitor posts from a workforce of about 138 by Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, following a review.
“We are calling for an urgent meeting with the trust management”
As many health visitors work part-time, the 38 WTE jobs could translate into a loss of up to 60 staff, according to Unite, which includes the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association.
The health visitors are expected to know their future from 9 January, following one-to-one interviews with line managers.
Nursing Times reported earlier this month that the review was underway of public health nursing posts and other roles in Nottinghamshire, with around 40 redundancies expected.
Under the shake-up by Nottinghamshire County Council, a new “integrated healthy child and public health nursing” programme for 0-19 year olds will be introduced.
It will combine the current family nurse partnership, health visiting, school nursing, the National Childhood Measurement Programme and breast-feeding support into a single “holistic” service.
In October, the council announced that it had awarded a three-year contract to provide the new integrated programme from 1 April 2017 to Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
The contract value of the current separate services in 2016-17 totals £15,311,157 but this will be reduced significantly over the term of the new contract, which was put out to tender in May.
The contract value for the next financial year is £14,208,321 but will fall to £13,652,775 in 2018-19 and then £13,035,954 in 2019-20.
As a result, the trust said it would “have had to make significant changes to the way services are delivered” with 20 new locally-based “healthy families teams” formed.
“The skill mix of the new ‘healthy families teams’ requires significant changes to the existing workforce,” it said in a statement.
“This will be done through the natural turnover of staff and some recruitment. However, due to the reduced funding and the requirements of the new contract we need to make a reduction of 38 posts,” it added.
The council, which took over commissioning of all children’s public health nursing services for 0 to 19 year olds, in October 2015, is facing similar financial challenges to others around the country.
Its available funding for such services had been reduced following a reduction in the public health grant provided to local authorities by the Department of Health.
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Unite said the Nottinghamshire cuts were being caused by a combination of pressure on the health service to make ongoing efficiency savings and the squeeze on local and regional council public health budgets.
“Unite is strongly opposed to the proposed reduction in health visitor numbers and we are in the process of preparing counter proposals,” said Garry Guye, Unite lead officer for health in the East Midlands.
Union attacks axing of ‘up to 60’ Nottingham health visitors
“We are calling for an urgent meeting with the trust management when we hope to raise genuine concerns about the wider professional issues,” he said. “This is a very serious development in Nottinghamshire.
Mr Guye said: “The grievous cuts planned for the health visitor workforce will mean that the 20 ‘lead clinics’ will end, which will have a disastrous impact, particularly in already deprived areas of the county.
“Vital child protection and safeguarding services will also be under threat as there will be fewer health visitors employed,” he said.
He added: “The trust is wrong and misguided if it believes that this work can be delegated to less qualified staff who are not registered by the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which is a key professional benchmark.”