Children’s health services in the areas to the south, east and north of Manchester could reach a crisis point, if plans to axe 15 full-time nursery nurse posts – 60 per cent of the workforce – goes ahead, Unite, the country’s largest union, has warned.
The union said that it had received ‘a threatening letter’ from the Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust after its members had demonstrated outside a recent meeting of the trust’s board in a bid to raise the issue of the cuts, amounting to £325,000.
The crisis will now be discussed at a meeting with the Department of Health (DH) on Thursday 1 August, when Unite, which embraces the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association, meets officials. It is understood that the trust’s management now wants to meet with the Unite reps before the 1 August meeting.
The trust’s plans will affect community nursery nurses in Bury, Heywood, Oldham, Middleton and Rochdale.
Unite regional officer Keith Hutson said: “The plans to axe 15 whole time equivalent nursery nurse posts will have a hugely detrimental effect on childcare in the trust’s area.
“This unnecessary cost-cutting measure will see the nursery nurse workforce slashed by 60 per cent, from 25 to 9.6 whole time equivalent posts.
“This will mean that Baby P could become the buzzword for a trust that just chooses to ignore these warnings. We are reaching a crisis point here.”
Unite professional officer Dave Munday said: “Our members have been clear in raising their concerns with the organisation that these cuts will mean that they will not be able to deliver the two year assessment universally to families in deprived areas of Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale.
“They will not be able to continue to offer weaning group sessions. There will be a reduction in contacts with families to offer support with sleep management and parenting skills.
“Also, there is likely to be a reduction of contacts to support breastfeeding. All of this will impact on the health visiting service and, ultimately, school nurses, as they are likely to miss children who will have developmental delays or speech difficulties which will affect their readiness for school.
“The management plans to increase the number of health visitors to replace these staff, but this will not be fully implemented until 2016. This will result in added pressure to the remaining staff who will be mentoring newly qualified health visitors and staff nurses.
“There are professional concerns that the health visitors will have to pick up the workloads of the community nursery nurses. This will significantly impact on their ability to fulfil safeguarding commitments and therefore this poses an increased risk of harm to children.”
When Unite members at the trust held a demonstration in their own time as the board met at its Ashton-under-Lyne headquarters on 26 June, the union received what it branded as “a threatening letter” from the trust’s people and development director Catherine Youds.
Ms Youds wrote: “Simply because the staff were demonstrating in their own time, so I have been told, does not automatically mean that there is no breach of contract by them.”
Keith Hutson commented: “Such letters with the threatening undertones are unhelpful and do nothing to resolve this issue. Our members are entitled to raise legitimate matters of concern regarding the health of children, especially in light of the Francis report into the scandal at Mid-Staffs.
“We look forward to a constructive meeting at the DH on 1 August and also with the trust’s management.”
For further information please contact Keith Hutson on 07798 531005, Dave Munday on 07918 630 700, Unite senior communications officer Shaun Noble on 07768 693940
- Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.