Humber NHS Foundation Trust has put forward plans that could see a 25% reduction in the number of health visitors and school nurses, according to local union representatives.
Under the plans, which have been circulated among staff but not made public, the number of whole-time equivalent health visitors would fall from 51.3 to 38.64, said Unite. Meanwhile, school nurses would be cut by 3% to just over six WTE roles.
“It’s a totally self-defeating move, which will harm children’s health and end up costing more”
The public sector union, which is planning a protest at trust headquarters tomorrow, claimed the move would mean less specialist support for vulnerable babies and families.
However, the trust described the union’s claims as “misleading” and “inflammatory”, and stressed no operational decisions on the future of the public health nursing service had yet been made.
The plans for a new model for public health nursing follow a £500,000 reduction in the budget for the service, which is commissioned by East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
The service – now known as the Integrated Specialist Public Health Nursing Service – was put out to tender by the council last year.
Unite regional officer Malcolm Hancock said: “Over the course of a year, health visitors and school nurses working for Humber NHS Foundation Trust help thousands of families throughout the area.”
“Because of the trust’s deep cuts, this support and specialist help for families in greater need will be reduced alongside support for issues like domestic violence and safeguarding,” he said.
“It’s a totally self-defeating move, which will harm children’s health and end up costing the trust more in the long run, because of a reduction in preventative health measures,” he added.
The trust told Nursing Times that it would not discuss the figures quoted by Unite, because the consultation process was still under way.
“The trust is not expecting any redundancies and will do whatever it can to prevent them”
However, a trust spokesman said the organisation did not anticipate making any nurses redundant.
The trust’s senior executives had “a very productive meeting” with Unite, he said, and was therefore “disappointed” the union was planning a protest “which, in our view, is neither in the best interests of its members nor those of the service”.
“The trust’s proposed service model has been developed to continue providing safe and effective services with the budget available to us, which has been reduced by £500,000,” said the trust spokesman.
“Although the reduced budget necessitates a different model of care, the trust is not expecting any redundancies and will do whatever it can to prevent them,” he said.
“We will also continue to put the communities we serve and our staff at the centre of everything we do to ensure we provide safe and effective services with the funds made available to us,” he added.
“Our board will not be debating the service in question at its meeting this week and will not do so until the consultation has concluded, said the spokesman.
He said: “Other remarks regarding ‘25% staff cuts’, reduced support for families in greater need, domestic violence, children’s health and, in particular, safeguarding, are not accurate, highly inflammatory and ignore the fact that no operational decisions have been made.”
The spokesman confirmed the consultation with staff and staff-side organisations was due to finish on Thursday. Staff feedback would inform a final model due to be published on 13 February, he said.
The situation in Humber closely mirrors similar public health nursing service redesigns caused by council budget pressures in other parts of the country, as previously reported by Nursing Times.