Breastfeeding services cuts by Essex County Council backed by North East Essex (ACE)

Essex County Council has said North East Essex (Anglian Community Enterprise), which provides infant

Essex County Council has said North East Essex (Anglian Community Enterprise), which provides infant feeding support, will be decommissioned with effect from April 1 next year.. Photo: Yui Mok/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Cuts to breastfeeding services for new mothers announced by Essex County Council in a bid to help make millions of pounds of savings are a “sensible step”, the service which delivers the support has said.

The county council today said North East Essex (Anglian Community Enterprise), which provides infant feeding support, will be decommissioned with effect from April 1 next year.

Two other services – Mid Essex (Provide) and Basildon and Brentwood (Provide) – will also be axed next year as the county council seeks to make just under £3.7 million in public health savings.

Nicola Carmichael, director of operations at Anglian Community Enterprise (ACE), which provides a range of NHS community health services in north-east Essex, said the move will not adversely impact the level of service.

She explained that the number of health visitors – highly trained qualified nurses who now deliver breastfeeding support – has doubled to 74 in the last three years.

She said: “What the announcement means, and we are very sad about this, is that we will lose the one post that we had left – the person who used to historically lead the breastfeeding service who we have worked closely with for a long time and really value and rate.

“But we are really confident that we are providing really strong support for breastfeeding through our health visitors, and actually it is going from strength-to-strength.

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“We understand the reasons (for the cuts) and we think that, in a sense, it is a sensible step because of the investment in health visitors. There is now a highly trained workforce able to take on that role in a much more holistic way.

“Our message to new mothers is that breastfeeding is really important for the health of your child. We have got now a very high level of health visitors and if you do have any concerns or issues, a health visitor will support you with breastfeeding.”

Health visitors contact mums during their pregnancy, work alongside midwives to facilitate antenatal ‘preparing for baby’ workshops and arrange home visits on a one-to-one basis.

Anne Brown, cabinet member for communities and healthy living at Essex County Council, said: “The breastfeeding services we are decommissioning were an addition to those the NHS has historically provided and are not county-wide, and only exist in Basildon and Brentwood, Mid Essex and North East Essex.

“Across the county, midwives and other hospital staff on midwifery and birthing units help and encourage women to breastfeed, and this will continue. There are also many local voluntary sector support groups helping women to breastfeed.

“After a mother returns home, a midwife and a health visitor have a role in continuing to offer help and support. This was previously commissioned by NHS England, and we have now taken over and will continue to see them involved in this work.”

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