Newborn babies missing vital checks due to fall in health visitors - Labour
Newborn babies are missing out on vital checks because of a fall in the number of health visitors, according to Labour.
Official figures show there were 8,588 health visitors working in the NHS in June, down 902 on 12 months before.
Numbers are now at their lowest level since December 2013, and are set to dip below 8,000 by February next year.
That is despite the Conservatives promising before the 2010 general election to increase the number of health visitors, who check on the progress of newly-born children.
Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth said the figures were "a damning indictment of the government’s commitment to tackling child ill health".
Speaking at a conference in Cardiff today, he will say: "David Cameron and Theresa May used to boast of their commitment to increasing the numbers of health visitors.
"The fact that health visitors are now falling exposes the Tories’ hollow promises. The simple truth is the Tory government’s staggering cuts are dismantling the country's public health system, failing some of the most vulnerable in our society and leaving children’s services at risk."
Labour also produced figures showing 12% of babies across the country missed out on on a newborn visit in the most recent reporting period, although in south-west England the figure was 21%.
And while 99% of babies in Enfield, north London, were seen within 14 days, in north Somerset it was 25%.
Mr Ashworth added: "I’ve seen at first-hand health visitors going the extra mile for vulnerable families including arranging food parcels and baby books for some of the very poorest mothers.
"I’m committed to giving every child the best start in life which means a laser like focus on improving child health and well-being. Central to our strategy to improve child health will be more health visitors in every community. So rather than cutting the numbers of health visitors as is happening under the Tories, we will increase their numbers."