The latest damning evidence about the steep decline in health visitors and school nurses unveiled by the Labour party is ‘a serious wake-up call’ for renewed investment in the professions, Unite the union said today (Wednesday 17 October).

Labour’s shadow health and social care secretary Jonathan Ashworth will tell delegates at the Unite/Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA) conference today that the number of NHS health visitors has been cut by eight per cent over the past year, while school nurses have been slashed by nearly 25 per cent since May 2010.

Jonathan Ashworth described the cuts to health visitors, school nurses and community nursery nurses as ‘savage’ and ‘another betrayal of our children’.

Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “The damning evidence from the Labour party further underlines what we have been saying for some time – that there is an urgent need for renewed investment in health visitors, school nurses and community nurses. These findings are a serious wake-up call.

“Unite/CPHVA has always argued that investment in health visiting and community nursing pays large dividends in the long-term by detecting problems, such as post-natal depression, and cases of abuse and neglect, at an early stage.

“There has been a sorry decline in numbers since the health visitor implementation plan ended in 2015 and this has been compounded by local authorities taking over the public health agenda. And, as we know, some cash-strapped councils in England view ‘public health’ as a target for cuts, because of the dramatic axing of funding by the Tory government since 2010.

“We know that a robust early years’ programme for babies and children improves the life chances later on as they move through the teenage years into adulthood – it is time that the government heard that message once more and acted on it in terms of committing additional resources.”

At the Bournemouth conference, Jonathan Ashworth reiterated Labour’s pledge for an additional mandated health visit at three to four months.


Notes to editors:

Labour’s new analysis shows that since the end of the national health visitor programme in 2015, staffing numbers have tailed off:

  • In June 2018, there were 7,910 health visitors working in the NHS.
  • Numbers are now at their lowest level since October 2012.
  • Since June 2017 there has been a fall of 678 health visitors - equivalent to 57 a month - down from 8,588 health visitors. This is an eight per cent reduction in just one year.

For more information please contact Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 020 3371 2060 or 07768 693940. Unite press office is on: 020 3371 2065

  • Unite represents workers in Britain and Ireland with members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.