Health visiting – one of the bedrocks of public health in England – is under sustained attack because of Tory austerity measures that have had a massive adverse impact on local authority budgets, Unite the union said today (Thursday 20 September).

Unite, which represents health visitors, school nurses and sexual health advisers, was commenting on today’s Labour party analysis which revealed Tory health cuts are forcing 85 per cent of councils to reduce their public health budgets this year.

Unite national officer for health Sarah Carpenter said: “Sadly, the Labour party’s findings echo what our public health members are telling us on a daily basis.

“It is a tale of continual cuts, lack of resources, overworked staff and rising demand from families because of the austerity imposed by the Tories since 2010. It has been compounded, unfortunately, in some cases, by poor and indifferent management.

“Unite knows of at least two authorities where staff are being asked to work above capacity and in unsafe conditions. If health visitors don’t safeguard children, who will?

“In many cases, health visitors are being prevented from exercising their clinical judgement and yet they would be accountable should anything be missed or go wrong.

“Faceless management consultants in one trust are telling health visitors which cases to close which is a scandalous state of affairs.

“By taking names off a list doesn’t mean the children aren’t there – they are still in need. This is about commissioning properly with the necessary resources, but, currently, the finance available does not address the needs of the population. Yet, the population keeps growing.

“The case for a massive reinvestment in public health with an emphasis on health visiting is imperative as there has been a 22 per cent drop in health visitor numbers since the high water mark for health visiting in October 2015.

“Behind these bald figures, there are human stories of distress as health visitors, stretched wafer thin, struggle to deal with cases of postnatal depression and possible domestic abuse.”
Unite has recently highlighted health visiting services in Birmingham which are ‘in meltdown’, following a damning review by the independent regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Birmingham Community Healthcare Trust has been told by the CQC to make ‘significant improvements’ in the quality of its healthcare by March next year.

The CQC notice pinpoints that the average health visitor caseloads per whole time equivalent post was about 500 families – double the 250 figure recommended by the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA) for safe effective practice.

Labour’s analysis of this year’s revenue account budget figures published by the ministry of housing, communities and local government shows: 130 out of 152 local authorities (85 per cent) plan to reduce their public health budgets in 2018/19. In total, £96.3m will be taken out of public health compared to 2017/18.


Notes to editors:

Unite embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association; Mental Health Nurses Association; and the Society for Sexual Health Advisers.

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