A new RCN report, The Best Start: The Future of Children’s Health, shows how plummeting numbers of health visitors and school nurses and cuts to public health funding are putting children’s health at risk.
The report reveals the number of health visitors has fallen by 1,000 since 2015 when there were more than 10,000 in the NHS. A 16% drop in full time school nurses between 2010 and 2017 was also identified – despite the number of school age pupils increasing by more than 450,000 during that time.
Health visitors and school nurses play an essential role in promoting healthy mental and physical development, safeguarding vulnerable children and providing a critical link between school, home and the community.
However, since being transferred from the NHS to local authorities, services have borne the brunt of the Government’s £200 million cuts to public health. As a result, many vulnerable children may be falling through the cracks.
The RCN is calling on the next Government to provide the resources needed for all local authorities to provide strong and effective health visiting and school nursing services for all children.
Janet Davies, RCN Chief Executive & General Secretary, said: “Cuts to these critical services risk not only the health of our children, but also the future of our country.
“There’s a wealth of evidence that ill health in childhood can have a detrimental impact in adulthood. If these cuts continue, we’re heading for more health problems, more inequality and even more pressure on our public services down the line.”