Many multi-disciplinary children health teams are being forced to disband to fund new health visitor posts.
A report by the NHS Confederation, the Royal College of Pediatrics and the Office for Public Management, Children and Young People's Health – where next? criticises the government's health reforms and 4,200 health visitor recruitment drive, fearing they will lead to the fragmentation of child healthcare.
Budget cuts coupled with the NHS efficiency challenge has meant child health lead posts are being increasingly "absorbed" into joint roles with adult services.
The report agues the two "distinctly different" roles "should not be merged".
It is also claimed a lack of focus on child health during the health reforms is pushing "skilled and experienced" staff out of the NHS.
"There is a real sense that the Government have not paid sufficient attention to child health as part of its NHS reforms," said Jo Webber, Deputy Policy Director at the NHS Confederation.
"The consequences of simply bumping along as we are could mean we will fail large numbers of children young people for no reason."
An absence in funding for the extra 4,200 health visitors the government has pledged to recruit by 2017 has meant many "good" multi-agency early years' teams in some areas are being dismantled to fund new health visitor posts.
The report urges the government to develop a revised framework to ensure "effective" multi-disciplinary teams remain and find a place in local commissioning.
It is claimed that by simply switching resources to defined posts will not result in a "tangible improvement in outcomes".
"It would be more sensible and more effective if the government altered its target to focus on outcomes," said Webber.
"It can not be right that trusts are having to re-arrange their teams to accommodate a specific job role that might not best meet the needs of local people.
"Worse still, in a very few places, we have been told these teams are being disbanded to make way for extra health visitors."
Your Comments (terms and conditions apply):
"Trusts all received an extra 3% funding to pay for additional health visitors. It was not ringfenced, so Trusts who saw shortfalls claimed not to have received it and are now looking for scapegoats. There was more than 20% reduction in the number of health visitors from 2004-2011, with serious effects on families and children, at a time when there was a 20%
increase in nurses and midwives overall. Please, don't blame health visitors for pressures coming from elsewhere, nor complain if one aspect of the NHS is being permitted to rebuild after being decimated in recent years." - Anon
"Definitely NOT. The government and trusts should stop robbing Peter to pay Paul. Will HVs take on the roles of S/Nurses caring for children 5-18yrs? Will they take on RNMH/RMN and other MD Team roles? I don't believe HVs are better-trained than other branches of nursing neither do I accept the 'don't blame HVs' stuff. Over the years in most Trusts, HVs are made managers over hardworking S/Nurses. They have placed themselves in positions of influence and 'politics'. Suddenly, others are being devalued. This problem of 'inequality' in the nursing profession needs to be addressed." - Helen, London
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