Union condemns cuts to school nurses

Cuts to crucial services are jeopardising the health of England’s children, nursing leaders are warning. The Royal College of Nursing highlighted figures showing reductions in the numbers of school nurses and health visitors.

The union said government cuts to public health budgets – held by local authorities – were to blame. The Conservatives say they are protecting children’s health, with over £3bn spent on public health last year.

A spokesman for the party said the government had published a “world leading” child obesity plan, while investment was being made in child mental health.

“We are focused on protecting the health of our children,” he added.

But this has been strongly disputed by the RCN, which says health visitors and school nurses are “critical” to the agenda.

A four-year plan to boost health visitor numbers began in England in 2011, but the union fears that progress is now being undermined.

Figures show there are just over 2,500 school nursing staff, down from 3,000 in 2010 – a drop of 16%.

Health visitor numbers have gone up since 2010, when they stood at 8,000, thanks to a targeted programme to recruit more. However, the numbers are still 1,000 down on the high of just over 10,000 seen in 2015.

RCN general secretary Janet Davies said: “Cuts to these critical services risk not only the health of our children, but also the future of our country.

Full story in BBC News 16 May 2017