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LGA - Mums and dads to see massive benefits for young children as health responsibilities transfer to councils

Mums and dads will see massive benefits for their young children from this week as public health responsibilities transfer to councils.

From Thursday (October 1) the commissioning of key services, including health visitors – registered nurses or midwives who lead and deliver health services for children – and family nurses, who provide services such as intensive support for young mums, will switch to local authorities from the NHS.

For councils, this is the ‘final piece of the jigsaw' after public health responsibilities transferred to them in April 2013.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents over 370 councils in England and Wales and has campaigned for the 0-5 transfer, says the momentous move will ensure councils are responsible for health ‘from the cradle to the grave'. A more holistic, joined-up approach to healthcare, it will not just be about clinical care but will provide better access to a range of services, including housing, benefits, employment and leisure, which are inherently linked to healthy living.

In preparation for the transfer, councils and school nurses are already working together to co-ordinate and deliver public health interventions for school-aged children. This includes reducing childhood obesity, under-18 conception rates and the prevalence of chlamydia; and the management of mental health disorders.

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, LGA Community Wellbeing spokesman, said:

"The transfer of public health commissioning responsibilities for under-fives to councils marks a momentous opportunity to transform healthcare for children, young people and families. It is one of the biggest shifts in public health services in generations. For councils, this is the final piece of the jigsaw after public health responsibilities transferred in 2013.

"Giving children a healthy start in life is one of the most important jobs councils do and we all have a duty to make sure that children, along with their mums and dads, have access to the services they need.

"Health visitors are at the frontline of children's healthcare and are perfectly positioned to spot problems early and stop them from escalating.

"Councils, as new commissioners of these services, understand the needs of their local communities, providing quality and cost-effective services. It's the rich information that school nurses, health visitors and family nurses hold that councils will value when commissioning and designing services.

"This will of course require strong partnership working, listening and learning from each other, creativity and sheer hard work. This is about the future of our children. There is nothing more important."

Professor Viv Bennett, Chief Nurse at Public Health England said:

"Local authorities understand the needs of local communities. The transfer of commissioning of the Healthy Child Programme gives them the opportunity to commission evidence-based services to support families to give children the best start, integrated with early and additional help when needed. The transfer also provides the opportunity to integrate public health services for 0-19-year-olds to support children and young people as they grow up".

Case studies

  1. Whitby
    Health visitors in Whitby are working together with Children's Centre staff to better identify speech and language issues so children can get access to the help they need.

  2. Nottingham
    Health visitors in Nottingham are providing parents with interactive nutrition resources and guidance to help tackle rising rates of obesity.

  3. Oxfordshire
    Health visitors are working closely with other service providers in Oxfordshire to offer a comprehensive early intervention service including job clubs, sessions on breastfeeding, parenting courses.

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