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OPINION

‘Services are being cut to fit budgets not population needs’

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In 1977 the song “The Greatest Love of All” by George Benson said “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way”.

Many of you who are reading this were ‘the children’ he was referring to at the time, and should relate to this.

“Children only have one childhood – we need to make sure that every aspect of it is the best it can be”

We have progressed so much in terms of healthcare in the last century. So much so that the children born today will be alive to see the next century. This is real food for thought that we need to keep in mind when we think about planning and the provision of services fit for their future needs.

We have collected sufficient evidence to inform us about what future provision should look like and which professionals are effective in the delivery.

It seemed we were heading in the right direction in our support for children when the investment in the health visitor workforce was announced and the biggest expansion we have seen was implemented, which brought about the training of new staff, brought recruitment back into the role and updated the existing hardworking workforce. 

This investment followed the establishment of family nurses and their partnership work with vulnerable families, which were all positive building blocks for our children’s future. Children only have one childhood – we need to make sure that every aspect of it is the best that it can be.

“The effect of this just adds to the exodus of staff who feel it is one cut too many in the wake of Brexit”

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is a powerful document. We see it stated in Article 3 (best interests of the child) that “The best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect children”.

Hand on heart, can this government stand in front of our children and guarantee that they are delivering on this? Sadly, no, I don’t think so.

Why would they transfer the commissioning of services for children into organisations who have their budgets cut so that they cannot deliver on the basic elements? Local authority cuts mean that services are being cut to fit budgets rather than population needs. The five mandated visits and the Healthy Child Programme, which should be led by health visitors, is apparently not being followed, as others dictate which visits they do and which must be delegated.

As services are decommissioned and minimised, the staff who have developed their specialisms and expertise to meet the needs of their local populations are being told the service can no longer accommodate them. The reality of this is that in some areas band 7 health visitors are working as band 5 staff nurses, and being delegated work by their band 6 colleagues.

The effect of this just adds to the exodus of staff who feel it is one cut too many in the wake of Brexit, the implementation of revalidation and the pay freeze, where these dedicated staff so often subsidise our NHS, with their goodwill for the good of the users of their service.

“Every one of you who works in the health visitor team, thank you for your loyalty and commitment”

For National Health Visitor Week, we want to say thank you and celebrate all that is good about the profession. So every one of you who works in the health visitor team, thank you for your loyalty and commitment.

Whitney Houston covered the George Benson song in 1985 and here is the line I think should be dedicated to health visitors and their teams who continue to provide the best service possible with so much change “no matter what they take from me they can’t take away my dignity”. Let’s hope these words continue to ring true.

Obi Amadi is lead professional officer, strategy policy and equalities at Unite the Union, which includes the Community Practitioner and Health Visitors Association

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