Changes to public health services for children in Cumbria

Public health services for children aged between 0-19 in Cumbria will see a newly designed service implemented replacing what is currently commissioned. The revised services approved by Cumbria County Council will bring together existing health professionals to strengthen support for the most vulnerable children, young people and their families in Cumbria.

The funding available to Cumbria County Council to provide these services has reduced in line with the national picture. As a result, the Council has recommissioned Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust to deliver these services in a different way.  They have taken the opportunity to work with schools and staff to redesign the traditional services to better meet the needs of all children across Cumbria. 

The current services affected are:

  • 0-5 services – health visiting and family nurse partnership
  • 5-19 services – school age nursing services

In a change to the current provision of school nursing services for 5-19 year olds, a Public Health and Wellbeing Service will be provided and this service will deliver strategic direction and support that will address local health and wellbeing needs identified through relevant data. The service provides a Public Health population based approach, to achieve the universal provision of the 5-19 element of the Healthy Child Programme. This will be as part of the wider early help whole system across Cumbria and the service will act as a single point of contact within each locality in Cumbria for schools and families.

In addition a new Strengthening Families service will also be provided; this service will provide an integrated safeguarding offer that will work specifically with those children, young people and families that require a statutory intervention, so are either on a Child Protection plan, Child in Need or are Looked After. They will act as a key professional in the prevention, identification and monitoring of children at risk of significant harm.

The Health Visiting service will continue to provide key contacts and assessments for 0-5 year olds, and the National Child Measurement Programme, but there may be some changes made to the services that are currently provided. 

Councillor Ian Stewart, Cumbria County Council Cabinet member for Public Health and Community Services said “These changes will result in a broader and better service for children and young people and follow detailed consultation with provider organisations, partners, staff, parents and young people about the type of service they want.

“In particular, arrangements for safeguarding vulnerable children will be enhanced because there will be one named person working with each family on all health matters, and a strong focus will remain on the key priorities of promoting breastfeeding, tackling obesity, and supporting mental and emotional health and wellbeing.

“While the government has cut the budget for public health, the council continues to try to protect the service from the full impact of that cut, and through better integration of health, education and social care we can achieve these improvements for less cost.”

Joanne Hiley is the Associate Director of Nursing for the Children & Families Care Group at Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust which provides the health visiting and school nursing service.  “Currently the school nursing service is only made up of 11 whole time equivalent staff to support all the schools in Cumbria.   Although each school has a named contact now, due to caseloads and geographical spread, there is not equity of service provision on the ground across Cumbria.  The core offer of the new service will enable schools to contact one of 6 public health and wellbeing nurses for support and advice.  In addition to this, we are offering schools the opportunity to buy in additional school nursing services to complement the core offer.  We have designed this offer following feedback from schools who have told us they would still like to have a face to face school nursing service.   This is a not-for-profit offer that will be provided at cost by our staff who have full access to health records. We have already been providing this service into a school consortium in the Millom area for three years with very good feedback”.

Janice Brockbank is the Chair of the Millom Schools Partnership.  She has purchased additional school nursing services from Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust for a partnership of schools in Millom over the last three years and is looking to renew their contract next year.  She said “We have found that the additional services have improved the lines of communication between health and education for the benefit of the children in our schools.   One example of this is the monthly meeting the school nurse has with each headteacher to discuss safeguarding issues or identify any new children who require support.  It also enables us to plan tailored preventative sessions on asthma, epilepsy, healthy eating, dental, puberty, and sexual health.”

A consultation with staff providing the current services has now finished and CPFT and the Council are finalising plans for implementing the new services, with the Public Health and Wellbeing Nurses expected to be in position by 1st April, and the other changes to be implemented by early May.

For more information about services that schools can purchase to supplement the core offer, please click here.