School nurses and health visitors have jointly called for investment into public health funding in order to tackle health inequality among babies and children.
In an open letter to Neil O’Brien, minister for primary care and public health, the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) and School and Public Health Nurses Association (SAPHNA) called on the minister to give an ‘urgent uplift to the public health grant’.
With the Spring Budget set to be announced this Wednesday (15March) the two professional bodies expressed their concerns that current funding will be insufficient to deliver on the Government’s plans for childhood health.
SAPHNA chief executive Sharon White and iHV chief executive Alison Morton said that they were concerned previous investment would ‘fail to provide the much more comprehensive plan and wide-ranging action needed to actually deliver the government’s own blueprint for health for all children’.
They continued: There is indisputable evidence that too many babies, children and young people are missing out on the support that they need due to a widening postcode lottery of service provision. This cannot continue.
‘With such a poor state and downward trajectory of child health in England, compared to other similar nations, and widening health inequalities that take root in childhood, this is too important to be left to chance and requires a national plan.’
This comes after the NHS Confederation wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt to warn that a ‘funding cliff edge’ could cause school nurse numbers to be slashed and reduce the availability of community services.
In their letter, Ms White and Morton wrote that there are now 40% fewer health visitors than in 2015, with school nurses facing similar reductions.
In a statement, a SAPHNA representative said: ‘It is imperative that we stop throwing good money after bad after children have fallen into the fire, rather, we need to prevent them falling into the fire in the first place through preventative public health nursing services delivered by this expert and specialist workforce.’
The letter called on Mr Brine to give an urgent uplift to the public health fund and to create a national workforce plan for school and health visitors, saying that this was the only way to ‘put the brakes on’ further staff losses.
The Department of Health and Social Care has been contacted for comment