Health visiting and school nursing: Investing in a healthier future for our children

Joint blog post from the LGA, the School and Public Health Nurses Association and the Institute of Health Visiting on the importance of long-term investments in school nursing and health visits for babies, young people and children.

Health visitors and school nurses are vital health assets in our communities and schools. They play a key role in identifying needs, promoting and improving health, preventing illness and reducing inequalities – helping our children to thrive. At a time of increasing need and complexity, both professions are needed now more than ever.

Alarmingly, between 2015 and 2022, the health visiting workforce decreased by nearly 40 per cent.

For school nurses, the last published data in 2022 showed a 33 per cent reduction in the workforce since 2010, however, since then, it is estimated that school nursing has also lost a similar proportion of its workforce. 

Contributing factors include cuts to the public health grant, reduced numbers of training places, retirement and staff moving to other roles.

This is why we need the Government to commit to an ambitious plan to increase the number of health visitors and school nurses. Our ultimate ambition is for every area to rebuild and regain the vital public health nursing services that have been lost over the last decade. We believe that this will lead to better outcomes for children and families and drive the change that is needed to turn the ‘best start in life’ policy into reality.

A properly resourced, integrated workforce strategy should recognise the benefits of having a multidisciplinary and diverse range of health visiting, school nursing, children’s centre and other early years staff in children’s and health services. Any integrated strategy between councils, health, education and third sector partners should always ensure the journey of the child is at its centre.

Investing in health visiting and school nursing doesn’t just have benefits for babies, children, young people and families.

Long-term investments in these key services can benefit children’s lives both now and into the future - through improving their school-readiness, attainment, resilience, and ultimately their employment prospects. Most importantly, the foundations for future 'health' are laid in the earliest years of life.

Frontloading investment in 'health' will ultimately reduce soaring costs for non-communicable diseases throughout the life course. Not only will this have wider economic benefits, but a healthy population will relieve pressure on our over- stretched health service.  

It is time for action to rebuild vital health visiting and school nursing services. Babies, children, and families cannot wait.

Cllr David Fothergill (Chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board), Sharon White (Chief Executive of the School and Public Health Nurses Association) and Alison Morton (Executive Director, Institute of Health Visiting.)