14th October 2021
We are beyond delighted to announce that Hampshire County Council has reconsidered its position to cut £2.09 million from its public health budget, and in particular, not to make any of the proposed cuts to its health visiting and school nursing services.
‘Influencing policies affecting health’ lies at the heart of health visiting and school nursing practice. This week both myself and Sharon White CBE (CEO, School and Public Health Nurses Association), had the honour of presenting at the Queens Nursing Institute annual conference and were hugely humbled to be in the esteemed company of Sir Michael Marmot who urged and reminded us that as public health nurses we need to, “Step up, if we are to build back fairer”, and “Speak up on behalf of the populations we serve”.
At the start of the summer, when our organisations heard of these proposed cuts in Hampshire, we were contacted by health visitors and school nurses who were deeply troubled by the impact they would have on the babies, young children and families in Hampshire. They wanted us to help them ‘step up’.
In partnership, the Institute of Health Visiting and the School and Public Health Nurses Association came together as a ‘united voice’ and worked with practitioners, and across our stakeholder networks, to galvanise a weight of support to challenge these cuts. With some 3,000 responses from leading national organisations and individuals, two national petitions to ‘Stop the Cuts’, numerous blogs and a vocal social media challenge, the strength of feeling against these cuts was plain to see.
This was an unprecedented response showing the strength of feeling and the significant value placed on public health nursing by the public and professionals alike. Huge thanks to all of you who responded to our call for action on this!
We do not underestimate the difficult decisions facing councils across the country and want to thank Hampshire County Council for their openness about these challenges which really struck a chord nationally – this was never just a ‘Hampshire issue’ or a criticism of their proposals as an isolated case. Rather, if their dangerous suggested remodelling of services had gone ahead, then this would have potentially paved the way for other cash strapped councils to follow suit. We also recognise that Councils are being forced to make some very difficult decisions; robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the answer!
The transparency of Hampshire County Council’s open consultation process has helpfully started a dialogue nationally about the root causes of the challenges that they face which are shared by others. We hope that this will drive the change that is needed to address these issues ‘once and for all services’ facing similar challenges across the country.
This is a resounding victory for our Professional organisations, but much more importantly, for the health and wellbeing of our babies, children, young people and families. The current and steep downward trajectory of the health visiting and school nursing workforce requires significant reinvestment after years of treasury public health grant cuts; our ask of the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.
Health Visitors and School Nurses are leaders of The Healthy Child Programme – by using leadership skills, evidence and research to represent the populations we serve, we did not ‘duck’ or avoid these difficult conversations. With an unprecedented weight of support from a multitude of leading stakeholders, we came together to drive real change through constructive dialogue. It will come as no surprise that we support Hampshire County Council’s decision which has shown just what difference our combined nursing voices can make!