The trade union Amicus has launched a battle against cuts to health visiting services in Kent, after the newly merged local primary care trust revealed plans to axe more than a quarter of its health visitor posts.
West Kent PCT is proposing to reduce the number of whole time health visitor posts from 57 to 42. Instead, it would recruit five additional nursery nurses and community health staff nurses across new area-based health visiting teams to “work actively with families”.
This week, the PCT launched the next stage of its review of its health visiting service – which is expected to save around £700,000 – just days after union representatives gave evidence to Kent Council’s overview and scrutiny committee about the potential impact of the proposed changes.
Amicus, which now incorporates the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, warned that the cuts could amount to the loss of about 30 health visitors as many of them worked part-time. The union said such a loss would raise serious concerns about a lack of highly skilled health visitors to work with children and families in West Kent and pose particular risks to vulnerable groups in the area.
The union has already secured support for its campaign from Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark and Maidstone MP Ann Widdecombe, and is hopeful that the council’s overview and scrutiny committee will now call on the PCT to put the proposals on hold until the findings of a national review of health visiting are reported.
Amicus regional officer for the south-east Sarah Carpenter said it was clear there was a great deal of concern at county council level and among local MPs about the trust’s “Turnaround programme” of reforms and efficiency savings.
Speaking after giving evidence to the overview and scrutiny committee, Carpenter told Community Care: “The outcome seemed to be cross-party support for the health visitor position, and I think the committee will be calling on the PCT to put proposals on hold.”
The PCT’s proposals are out for consultation until 13 December.
Contact the author: Lauren Revans