The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) has written an open letter which challenges the main political parties in England to commit to important manifesto pledges for children which it hopes to see from the next government.

Children in the UK have some of the worst outcomes when compared with the rest of Europe and similar countries in the world. It’s time for solutions, our children cannot wait any longer.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, said: “The outcomes from disinvestment in preventative services for children are increasingly stark.  In the words of Nelson Mandela, ‘The true character of a society is revealed in how it treats its children’.  There is no doubt that England needs to do much much better. Children are our future, get it right in the early years and all of society benefits.”

Now is the time for solutions:

A few weeks ago the Institute published “Health Visiting in England: A Vision for the future” which sets out how a robust health visiting service provides an important part of the solution to a multitude of government priorities, with 18 recommendations.

Of these, the three most urgent requests are:

  1. Local authorities need to receive urgent and ring-fenced public health investment to cancel planned cuts to the health visiting profession this year and next.
  2. A review of 0-5 public health funding is needed with a new mechanism for sustainable funding in England. A shift in emphasis in language and policy is needed, from “releasing efficiencies”/ short-term return on investment in 0-5 public health, to a recognition by government that investment in prevention and early intervention in the early years is a sound investment in our children’s and society’s futures.
  3. Urgent action is needed to rebuild the health visiting workforce, training 5000 health visitors is estimated to cost £137million. The public health grant would then need an uplift of £240million to cover these substantive posts. These costs are relatively insignificant against the cost of not intervening as set out in our Vision.

Read iHV’s letter to the political parties

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Addressing our breastfeeding conference yesterday (19 April), Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, pledged to introduce an additional mandated health visit at 3-4 months, as part of Labour’s commitment to making Britain’s children the healthiest in the world.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health addressing the breastfeeding conference

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, addressing the breastfeeding conference

Labour will commit an additional £25 million for health visiting to fund the pledge, paid for from Labour’s costed National Child Health Fund and forms part of Labour’s effort to tackle health inequalities and improve early intervention services.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, said:

“The iHV called for the mandation of a 3-4 month check in its evidence to the Health Visiting Service Mandation Review  in March 2017. Unfortunately, this wasn’t supported by the government but it is very encouraging to now have the support for this contact from the Shadow Health Secretary.

“The 3-4 month check is a critical developmental milestone when many families may require additional support with a range of issues. What has been proved in England is that, without mandation, commissioning of health visiting services is largely a ‘race to the bottom’ by cash-struck local authorities. Only the mandated contacts are being commissioned universally but they are still not being delivered universally.”