THE THREAT to cut health visitor and community nurse jobs in County Durham, while Covid-19 is still widespread, was branded as ‘incomprehensible’ by the Unite union yesterday.
Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust (HDFT), which is taking over the County Durham 0-25 family health service contract from 1 September, wants to axe about 37 whole time equivalents (WTEs), while the coronavirus is still widespread across the county.
Although the HDFT also says it wants to employ 21 WTE new posts, there will be a net loss of 16 WTEs out of a workforce of about 230 WTEs.
Unite lead officer for health in the north east Chris Daly said: ‘It is almost incomprehensible that when “public health” is foremost in people’s minds because of coronavirus, Harrogate and District NHS Foundation Trust is swinging the jobs axe.
‘The vast majority of those being earmarked to lose their jobs are health visitors and school nurses – the very professionals at the public health frontline helping families with babies and young children, and children returning to school.
‘Disgracefully, the trust is consulting when staff have been working flat-out throughout the Covid-19 crisis supporting very stressed families and young people. This flawed exercise is happening before the first wave of the pandemic is over and with the expectation that a second wave will hit this autumn and winter.
‘It is also very wrong that schools and GPs have not been told about the proposed cuts in school nurses. School staff returning in September will be phoning school nurses to come and help with children that they have not seen since March and who may be exhibiting worrying behaviours and dealing with distressing emotions.
‘We believe that already stretched GPs will be expected to pick up the shortfall in keeping babies, children and young people safe. However, there is a real risk that those most at risk may fall through the current safety net that HDFT seems intent on weakening.
‘This is not the time to reduce the health and school nurse provision for children and young people. However, it will be some time before the adverse impact of these cuts are brought into sharp relief.
‘The Durham county council should work with the trust to increase the funding for these essential frontline services. The long-term health of families is never enhanced by reducing the number of healthcare professionals.’
Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA), will be making strong representations on behalf of its members before the consultation process ends on 31 July.