Millions of pounds taken out of health care services: warning from St Albans councillor

Cllr Roma Mills has voiced her concerns about the Government's massive funding cuts to health care

Cllr Roma Mills has voiced her concerns about the Government's massive funding cuts to health care services - Credit: Archant

Millions of pounds are being expunged from vital local health care, impacting upon school nursing and health visiting services.

Concerned county councillor for St Albans north, Roma Mills, has slammed drastic cuts in funding from the government as ‘shocking’.

The responsibility for commissioning the school nursing services was transferred from the NHS commissioners to Herts county council (HCC) as part of the transfer of public health services in 2013.

This was followed by the transfer of responsibility for health visiting services to HCC in 2015.

Funding for the services also transferred from the NHS to the council as part of a ring-fenced public health budget, but central government announced in-year cuts to that budget in 2015/16, just before health visiting transferred, with further decreases following.

In mid-2015 the council learned it was to lose nearly three million pounds of its grant funding because of government cuts.

Also, late last year, HCC learned that further reductions would be made to its public health ring-fenced grant, taking the total to £7.7 million being slashed over five years until 2020/21.

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Cllr Mills said: “These cuts will impact directly on school nursing which is already under pressure, and health visiting services. A Care Quality Commission (CQC) report on Herts Community Trust in 2015 expressed concerns about the size of health visitor caseloads.”

The CQC report warned that “health visitors are carrying caseloads beyond the optimum levels agreed nationally.”

Cllr Mills said: “The funding was lean when the council took over the services. So I have been jumping up and down about these cuts. It’s a shocker.

“It is putting pressure on health visiting services, including mothers who receive support, and school nursing, despite them being the ‘gatekeeper’ to children’s health outside home – children talk to them about eating disorders and many other issues.

“These cuts mean a lot more pressure on these two critical services. It’s a con from government. We were told the money would come over, and be ring-fenced. There is no fat in the system, and I don’t think the public realises what is happening.”

Cllr Mills added: “I have been contacted by people offering those services, saying they are really worried; they are demoralised. It’s bad news.”

She said that at a recent public health cabinet panel meeting she lodged an objection against the slashing of funding.

HCC’s cabinet member for public health, Cllr Teresa Heritage (Harpenden south west), said the authority was “committed to delivering services that keep residents healthy and safe while providing value for money”.

She added: “The majority of savings will be made in ways that will not affect the public, such as redesigning services and making efficiencies to office functions.

“In the minority of cases where this is not possible, there may be a change to services. A plan is in place to ensure that any changes have minimal impact on the public.

“We are working closely with our provider to maintain both health visiting and school nursing service delivery as well as looking at a re-design of the service to ensure the best possible outcomes for children, young people and their families.”