Thursday, August 11, 2016

Lewisham health visiting threatened by Jeremy Hunt's cuts

Health visiting and school nursing services are facing cuts in Lewisham as a result of a £4.7 million reduction in the public health grant that the Council receives from central government. Lewisham Council is consulting on how it will make these cuts (consultation here - closes 14 August), and local NHS campaigners Save Lewisham Hospital have started a petition opposing the cuts. They say:

'What some of us might not know (or have forgotten) is just how essential children's community nurses and health visitors are. Children's services are not some non-essential, 'cuttable' part of the local health service. They are central to protecting our most vulnerable children from disease and neglect. They provide the bulk of our safeguarding and public health commitments, from cradle to adulthood. It is not the place of Lewisham Council to take these services away from the next generation, it is their duty to demand they are adequately funded. Please, for the skilled staff, vulnerable children and community, sign this petition, once again, demand to Save NHS Services in Lewisham, and keep your eyes peeled for any actions or demonstrations we may announce. At a time when the government and NHS England are stressing the importance of preventative and community services: WE THE UNDERSIGNED OPPOSE THESE CUTS AND URGE THE COUNCIL NOT TO ACCEPT THEM AND TO DEMAND THE RESTORATION OF AN ADEQUATE PUBLIC HEALTH GRANT FROM CENTRAL GOVERNMENT'.

Right as they are to oppose these reductions, I can't help feel they are falling into a Government trap by addressing this solely to the Mayor of Lewisham, Steve Bullock. Until last year the responsibility for commissioning (i.e. funding) of health visiting was managed within the NHS - which meant that the  buck stopped ultimately with the Minister for Health. The transfer of this responsibility to local Councils from 1 October 2015 was promoted as offering 'service sustainability' and 'maximum benefit for local people'. But no sooner did this transfer happen than local authorities were told that the funding for these services was being reduced, with Department of Health announcing cuts in November 2015.

In effect in many areas, Councils have been given responsibility for a service that currently costs x million and then given x million minus a big cut to fund it - all at a time when Councils are struggling to maintain services they were already responsible for. Cleverly, the blame for this can now be laid at the door of local authorities so that Jeremy Hunt can now say, 'well if you don't like it, blame the Council'. So yes, lobby Lewisham but also lets look beyond the local at the bigger picture of Department of Health cuts of £200m to the public health grant that are threatening health visiting and other community health services across the country.


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