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Vulnerable children ‘at risk’ as health visitor numbers fall

Labour have claimed that children’s services are ‘at risk’ due to the declining number of health visitors working in the NHS.

Latest figures from NHS Digital have shown a drop of 9.5% in the number of health visitors in post – from 9,491 in June 2016 to 8,588 in June 2017.

The numbers are the lowest since 2013, and come not long after an analysis from The King’s Fund found the number of nurses in the NHS had fallen for the first time in four years.

It has resulted in a wide variation in services received by new mothers across England. While 99% of babies received a check after 14 days in Enfield, only 25% in North Somerset received the same service.

Looking at figures across the entire country, 12% of babies missed out on a check by a health visitor within 14 days.

In London, only half of babies received a one-year check, with only 3% in Greenwich visited at one year.

The findings will prompt Labour shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth to tell a conference later today that cuts from the Conservative Government are to blame.

He will say: ‘The simple truth is the Tory Government’s staggering cuts are dismantling the country's public health system, failing some of the most vulnerable in our society and leaving children’s services at risk.’

Janet Davies, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: ‘Health visitors are now bearing the brunt of Government cuts and the health and wellbeing of our children is in jeopardy.

‘Poor health in childhood has a detrimental impact in later life. The UK is falling even further behind our European neighbours too. Ministers must ensure local councils have the funding to give every child the best start in life and not undermine progress made in the last decade.’