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iHV calls for urgent action to protect babies and children’s health and development

17th November 2017

The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) calls for Government to reverse the cuts to public health budgets and reinvest in health visiting services to protect and support the health and development of babies, children and families, and, in the medium and longer term, for all in our society.

In a letter to the Chancellor, the Institute details how the year-on-year reductions in the public health budgets is leading to far-reaching declines in health inequalities across England – impacting the long-term health outcomes for our children, as well as society.

A policy change in 2015 moved the commissioning of health visiting services to local government, coinciding with a 6.2% reduction of the public health budget during that financial year and further annual cost savings of 3.9% each year until 2020.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, executive director iHV, said:

“We know so much today with respect to what can influence children’s outcomes across their life course and in turn benefit the whole country. The impact of the public health budget cuts on babies and children is very worrying and upsetting. It is alarming that, in the two years since the commissioning change, the number of health visitors seems to have reduced by around 18%*, and could rapidly be approaching an all-time low.”

Health visitors play a vital role in supporting babies, children and families in the early years of life. There is a strong research base that demonstrates that a significant part of an individual’s ‘blue print’ for their future mental wellbeing is laid down in the first two years of life.  This is a critical window for supporting parents to help their children build solid social and emotional wellbeing.  Health visiting services are effective at identifying and reducing the impact of health inequalities, so reducing the burden of care both in the short and longer term.

Dr Adams continued:

“As a nation, we cannot afford not to invest in our children as they are our future, yet recently their needs seem to have become invisible against the many competing demands being made on Government and the NHS. The work of the health visitor often goes unseen, until you take it away. Government may soon have to face the effects of some of the lowest ratios of health visitors to children experienced by this country in living memory.

“It’s time to act, to help ensure the best health outcomes for all UK children today, and in the future. We need urgent action from the Government to increase their investment in public health prevention and early intervention to ensure that health visitors can continue to give every child the opportunity to have the best start in life.”

*NHS Digital

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