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Worrying cuts to health visiting services across England – ticking the box but missing the point

19th June 2019

The Institute of Health Visiting publishes a position statement and recommendations for government following this weekend’s news of a threatened reduction of 25% in the health visiting workforce in Suffolk, alongside threatened cuts to the health visiting workforce in other areas of the country coinciding with the latest round of cuts to public health budgets by government.

Last weekend, the Observer published an article with the alarming title “Fears for new mothers as Suffolk slashes health visitor numbers”. Suffolk County Council, alongside many other local authorities, is being forced to make difficult decisions about the health visiting services that they provide to families due to year on year cuts to the public health grant. A spokesperson from the council describes the cuts as “adjustments to the care and support we provide” with the rationale that the new service will “provide the very best care and support that our children and young people deserve.”

Whilst this might sound an admirable aspiration, it will only be achieved if it is built on sound evidence and best practice. Investing in the earliest years saves money in the long run and, more importantly, ensures that every child is supported to achieve the best start in life. We are concerned that despite this evidence, health visiting services are being diluted and eroded due to a persistent gap between what we know and aspire to achieve, and what is currently funded and provided.