Cuts to local public health budgets will widen health inequalities warn leading women’s health organisations
A partnership of leading women’s health organisations has called on a county council to rethink its plan to cut £2.09 million per year from its public health budget.
In a letter to Hampshire County Council (HCC), the One Voice Partnership, which includes the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Sands, and the National Childbirth Trust (NCT), has called on HCC to re-examine as a matter of urgency the impact that the proposed budget cuts will have on women before, during and after pregnancy, and on their babies. Not only would the proposal widen inequalities yet further, but it could open the door to preventable harm to women and their babies.
The One Voice Partnership has called the HCC proposal a canary in the mine, with local government budgets across the country under significant pressure.
Commenting on behalf of the One Voice Partnership Gill Walton, the RCM’s Chief Executive, said:
“What’s happening to public health budgets in Hampshire is happening elsewhere across the UK. We absolutely recognise the strain that local authority budgets are under, but slashing spending for some of the most vulnerable is a false economy. Cutting community nurses and health visitors by almost 50 full-time posts will reduce the support women and their babies need, at a time when the need it most. We’re all aware of the need to support perinatal mental health, yet these proposed cuts risk taking a vital contact point away altogether. Those who are most vulnerable will lose out and this is just one example of what can happen when budgets are slashed.”
The RCM and its One Voice partners have asked HCC to re-examine, as a matter of urgency, the impact that the proposed changes will have on: pregnant women, babies, children, and their families. One Voice is also reminding all local councils of their statutory safeguarding responsibilities and the impact of any budget cuts on the wider health and social care system, including maternity services.
One Voice also say the introduction of non-face-to-face methods for delivering the Healthy Child Programme are currently untested and there is not enough evidence on their effectiveness as an alternative method of providing support and identifying risk and vulnerability.
A consultation on the issue was brought to the One Voice Partnership’s attention by the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) whose members are likely to be affected by the proposed cuts.
Commenting, Executive Director Alison Morton at the iHV said:
“The Government needs to listen to the warnings from these leading health organisations. There is no doubt whatsoever that these short-sighted plans, designed to cut costs, will cause harm and cost the council and wider society much more in the long run. Having the right support from highly-trained health visitors who are specialist public health nurses has been shown to make a big difference to a multitude of health and social problems. Babies, young children and their families are being let down by this postcode lottery - we need to listen and do better.”
“If we’ve learned anything over the past 18 months, it’s the value of good public health programmes. Supporting pregnant women, new mums and babies isn’t a luxury – it’s a vital investment. We know that getting the basics right from the beginning can have a huge impact on a child’s future, saving money further down the line. Not giving children the best start in life and not supporting vulnerable families will cost more in the long term.
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Notes to Editors:
- One Voice letter to Hampshire County Council can be read in full here: https://www.rcm.org.uk/media/5239/one-voice-response-to-cuts-to-public-health-provision-in-hampshire-final.pdf
- One Voice is a collaboration between the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), Sands (the stillbirth and neonatal death charity), the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), the Association of Anaesthetists and the National Childbirth Trust. One Voice aims to ensure the best outcomes for mother and baby and the best possible experience for mothers, partners and families, through pregnancy, birth and postnatal care. We champion high-quality care for all. We are committed to multi-disciplinary working, including the involvement of parents and their representatives. And we believe that safety and choice - far from being traded-off against one another - are both dependent upon high-quality, personalised care.