New health visitor service has 'improved measures' says Suffolk County Council cabinet
PUBLISHED: 13:42 18 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:42 18 October 2019
Calls for a Suffolk authority to reverse cuts to health visitor numbers have been rejected.
The Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group at Suffolk County Council put forward a motion to Tuesday's full council calling for the changes introduced on September 1 to be reviewed.
The council cut 41 of its 117 health visitors following a 16% reduction in central government funding.
It means that the final two of the five mandatory developmental checks that health visitors carry out for families - antenatal, new baby, six-eight weeks, one year and two years - are now being carried out by community nurses.
Opposition councillors said government guidance indicated the five checks should be carried out by health visitors, who have had additional training, and raised fears about the workloads now being imposed on both health visitors and community nurses.
But Mary Evans, Conservative cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, said: "We believe that not only does our new service model meet the national standards but it has additional and improved measures which have been in direct response to parents.
"This new model is about making sure families have the appropriate service the families need to make sure their newborns thrive."
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Mrs Evans said that under the new system, the same health visitor would carry out all three of the first checks and that health visitors could still work with families that needed the greater level of support beyond eight weeks.
But according to the Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group, health visitors have spoken directly to them about the issues.
Councillor David Wood said that direct quotes from some health visitors suggested that "work conditions have become strained" and "the workload has not changed since the redesign".
Group leader Penny Otton said: "We are obviously disappointed that the Conservatives refused to listen to the concerns of health visitors and voted against this motion.
"Cutting health visitors by 35% will directly impact on the wellbeing of children and families in Suffolk.
"I strongly believe that all families deserve proper support for the council during pregnancy and early childhood.
"It is shameful that the Conservative administration took this support away without any public consultation and then, despite hearing the fears of health professionals, they rejected the opportunity today to reconsider these short-sighted cuts.
"The Conservatives went to so far as to suggest that they are proud of their new policy and that cutting the number of health visitors will somehow improve services for families in Suffolk.
"I would question why, if this new policy is truly as good as they suggest, they failed to alert the public of these cuts and instead tried to hide them away in an internal staff restructure?"