Lewisham residents stand up to health cuts

Pic: Feride Sahin

Pic: Feride Sahin

Lewisham residents are worried about the future of their children’s health after the council decided to cut funding for Health Visitors and School Nursing services.

Save Lewisham Hospital campaign group started a petition to save Lewisham NHS’ Community Children’s Nurses. They have also held a protest in August and again on September 28 in Catford against the decision.

The creator of the protest said: “The petition got a lot of support, especially from people that know about the issue, the health workers, doctors and nurses and the people that work in social services. It affects really vulnerable children.”

She added: “You hear from the government how important the intervention is and hear the council talking about how important it is and then come up with the cuts.

“Instead of the government making the cuts through NHS they’re cynically passing them to the council and I’m afraid the council is not standing up.”

The changes have been on the horizon since the former chancellor George Osborne announced cuts of £200m on 4 June 2015 to the public health grant. – money distributed centrally to local authorities to spend on services such as health visitors and school nurses.

This meant that local councils would be facing reductions to spending on public health services until 2020/21 – and Lewisham held a consultation as to how best make the cuts.

They say they have already approved £2m of savings but need to slash a further £4,7m by next April and health visitors and school nurses look set to be in the firing line.

The current costs for the Health Visiting Service in Lewisham is £7.32m per annum, which has been cut by 16.4 per cent. School Nursing services’ current costs is £1.75mi per annum but has been cut by 42 per cent.

Even though the public health services funding cuts will affect other boroughs across London, Lewisham is feared to be hit hardest as it is the 48th most deprived local authority in England.

Statistics show that the rates in Lewisham are nearly all higher compared to London. Child Poverty rates and the lack of qualification especially is at its highest in Lewisham.

With 26 per cent of children in Lewisham living in poverty today and 400 children subject to Child Protection Plans, workers believe that these cuts could majorly impact children’s health in the future.

Local substance misuse nurse, Iain Wilson, 35, fears that the latest budget cuts from children’s services in Lewisham could affect his children in the future.

Wilson said: “I have been living in Lewisham for eight years. I think the funding cuts are ridiculous. In places like Lewisham where there are high rates of poverty and the highest rate of domestic violence in England, there are risks to children in Lewisham.

“Making cuts at a time when actually what is needed is investment is crazy. Lots of people living in London who don’t have much support around them and people who are at risk of post-natal depression. When it comes to school, there are children having more and worse mental health problems. These sort of things need more services not cuts.”

He added: “We’ve used the health visitors quite often when it’s difficult to get a GP appointment for minor things. As my children get older and go to school, it will make a difference, if they have mental or physical health problems. There won’t be when there’s less likely to be that support for them.

I feel that Lewisham Council can do a lot more to draw attention to the fact that what central government is asking of them is unjust. They could be working with other councils and health visitors and school nurses to oppose the cuts rather than force them through.”

Clare Phipps, a Green Party candidate for Lewisham, said: “One of the reasons I am standing for the council is because I have really been personally affected by these cuts as I am a disabled woman.”

She also mentioned that the “kids are only going to be kids once. This isn’t an issue we can sort out in the future, for them this is their childhood so we need to sort it out and make sure that they’re getting the support they need.

“The local councils really have to provide supports towards the health visitors and health workers in community, that’s something that will actually save the council money in the long term.”

By March 31 2015, 49,700 children in the UK were subject of Child Protection Plans, whereas six years ago it was 39,100, according to recent statistics.

Children across the UK today are subject of Child Protection Plans more than ever before; therefore these cuts could make matters worse in upcoming years for children living in the area.

You can sign the Save Lewisham Hospital’s petition here: https://www.change.org/p/mayor-of-lewisham-sir-steve-bullock-save-lewisham-nhs-community-children-s-nurses

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