Plummeting health visitor numbers demand action, Lib Dems warn
The Liberal Democrats have called for an "emergency recruitment strategy" for frontline workers after revealing a third of health visitors across hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups have been cut since 2015.
Since October 2015, when the health visitor implementation plan ended, health visitor numbers declined from 10,309 to 7,852 by July 2018 - a drop of almost 25%. This decline has put a strain on the health visitor service, resulting in increasing stress on the remaining workforce, with many struggling to cope and considering giving up the profession. Like District Nursing, health visitro numbers have seen a quiet and graduall decline, yet both these groups are essential to looking after population health in our commity said Ellen Nicholson, Lib Dem spokesperson for SW Wiltshire and herself a health professional specialising in primary care.
Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper, who uncovered the figures through a written parliamentary question, warned cutting such vital preventative services is "letting vulnerable children down" and "costing the tax-payer more in the long-run."
In response to Daisy Cooper, junior Conservavtive Health Ministers Jo Churchill confirmed responsibility for commissioning of health visiting services transferred to local authorities in October 2015.
Across England, health visitors work mainly with children from birth to five years, their families and at-risk or deprived groups such as the homeless, addicts or travellers.
As of March this year, there were 6,828 full-time equivalent health visitors working in hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups. This is a drop of 3,408 - one in three - since the peak of 10,236 in September.
Here in Wiltshire, all Wiltshire Child Health clinics ceased running from 23/3/20 until further notice as part of the Community Response to Coronavirus.
Please call the Single Point of Access on 0300 247 0090 , where you can talk to a Health Visitor to discuss any concerns you may have. If there is a concern about your child's weight, we will explore this with you and make arrangements to see you as required.
In Wiltshire https://wiltshirechildrensservices.co.uk/health-visiting/
These figures do not include staff working in primary care, general practitioner surgeries, local authorities or other providers and therefore the drop could be a lot higher.
Liberal Democrat MP Daisy Cooper said:
"The coronavirus crisis has taken an enormous toll on people, not least the front-line carers working day and night. However, years of central underfunding and neglect has left our health services without the resources they need.
"Health visitors do vital and unique work to support mothers and those children most at-risk but the Conservatives have presided over cuts that have reduced NHS health visitors by a third.
"By cutting such vital preventative services, the Government is not only letting vulnerable children down but costing the tax-payer more in the long-run.
"While the Prime Minister asks us to clap for the NHS, he turns a blind eye to how stretched health and care services are.
"People deserve better. That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling on the Government to support our frontline workers with an emergency recruitment strategy with a transformational investment in health and social care."