School nurses and health visitors are often the first port of call for children and families in difficulty and their unique position allows them to provide a wide range of support from counselling and promoting healthy lifestyles to child protection. Last year Childline reported that the number of children contacting them because they have had suicidal thoughts has more than doubled in the last five years. Having a readily available health professional to talk to in confidence and ask for support and advice is invaluable for tackling mental health issues before they become critical.
A City of York Council consultation on the reorganisation of 0-19 health services states a key objective of the restructure is to save £250,000. The RCN believes that this level of savings will be damaging to the effectiveness of this service.
Regional Director for the RCN in Yorkshire and the Humber, Glenn Turp, said: “We are asking York Council to listen to the views of our members - highly skilled and experienced nurses who work with families and young people every day. They are telling us that these proposals will not work and that the changes could be harmful to vulnerable children. Child health in the UK is lagging behind other European countries and problems are exacerbated by inequality and poverty; we simply cannot afford to be cutting corners in this area.”
A recent report from the Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health concluded that the Government needed to halt further cuts “until a clear impact assessment of the effects of the most recent cuts is undertaken.” The report also recommended that universal early years public health services, including health visiting and school nursing, are prioritised and supported financially, with targeted help for children and families experiencing poverty.
There are a number of specific concerns about these proposals which the RCN believes will add unnecessary stress to staff as well as the families and young people they work with, as well as contribute to a growing level of pressure on staff. These will therefore will be detrimental to the service in the long term.
Glenn Turp added: “We urge the Council to take into account our reservations and concerns and liaise with us and other unions to ensure that the service can continue to provide the care and support that families need.”
The RCN will be meeting with Labour MP for York Central, Rachael Maskell, to discuss these issues.