Thank you, Scotland, for helping to save English health visiting and school nursing services.
Dear Scottish colleagues,
I am getting in touch to say an enormous thank you to all of you for your support over the last few months for our health visitors and school nurses in Hampshire whose service faced radical cuts. As a direct result of your support, at the end of last week, we were delighted to learn that Hampshire County Council has reconsidered its position and will not make any of the proposed cuts to their health visiting and school nursing services. This is excellent news for people in Hampshire and sets a powerful precedent for other authorities in England considering similar cuts.
These proposed cuts announced in early summer, posed significant risks to babies, young children, and their families with plans to reduce the 0-19 Public Health Nursing Service budget by £2.09 million per year and cut 47 staff posts in Hampshire (12.5% of the current workforce). For children 0-5 years, all children would only receive one mandated face-to-face health visitor review. All other reviews would be “risk assessed to decide whether they should be completed face-to-face, by video or by telephone”.
Health visitors freely admitted they felt hopeless and deeply troubled by the impact these cuts would have on families. They wanted to speak up on behalf of the communities they serve and set up a national petition to ‘Stop the Cuts’. Gaining signatures was slow going at first. And then you stepped in! You could easily have let this news pass you by, taken at face value cuts by Hampshire County Council have no bearing on your health visiting service in Scotland. But you didn’t let it pass you by, and for that we are extremely grateful.
I read a recent blog on the QNIS website by Queen’s Nurse Liz Smith, which talks about finding our ‘tribe’ as community nurses. Your actions exemplify the powerful force for good which can be achieved when this UK ‘tribe’ of community nurses come together. You metaphorically ‘rolled up your sleeves’ to help. I was overwhelmed by how quickly health visitors and community nurses in Scotland got alongside their colleagues in England. You didn’t hang about!
Scottish signatures were among the first to support the petition set up by health visitors in Hampshire. Very quickly the petition’s tracking map of the UK showed all of the regions in Scotland ‘coloured in’. Your visible show of support meant such a lot to all health visitors and school nurses across England facing similar threats of cuts. Many health visitors reported to us at the iHV that they had never felt so low or demoralised – but knowing that they had the support of so many partners and stakeholders was what kept them going. Before long, the petition achieved its target of 10,000 signatures with growing support.
‘Influencing policies affecting health’ lie at the heart of health visiting and school nursing practice. Last week, both Sharon White CBE (CEO, School and Public Health Nurses Association) and myself, had the honour of presenting at the Queens Nursing Institute annual conference and were hugely humbled to be in the esteemed company of Sir Michael Marmot who urged and reminded us that, as public health nurses, we need to “Step up, if we are to build back fairer”, and “Speak up on behalf of the populations we serve”.
There is no doubt that Hampshire’s decision to halt their proposed cuts could not have been achieved without the groundswell of support from high profile national stakeholders like QNI Scotland, who joined some 3,000 responses from leading national organisations and individuals.
The Institute of Health Visiting was established by health visitors, for all health visitors across the UK. We are immensely grateful to QNIS and all our partners for their unwavering support for health visitors and the vital work that they do. By coming together and speaking up on behalf of the populations that we serve, we have shown that we can make a difference.
With heartfelt thanks and very best wishes,
Executive Director, Institute of Health Visiting