Conservatives at Kent County Council are proposing significant cut in financial support for breastfeeding services from January 2018.
The dramatic cuts planned would hit the county’s already low breastfeeding rates and child health.
It would involve slashing services by up to 76%. At present, families can access breastfeeding support at 40 locations in Kent per week: 17 specialist-led clinics and 23 peer support groups. They are all open to everyone, and include access to different tiers of experienced and knowledgeable experts.
The Conservatives propose that responsibility will be handed over to the already over worked Health Visiting Team.
Breastfeeding rates in Swale are well below national average of 74.3%, sitting at 68% at initiation stage and dropping in some areas to below 20% exclusivity at 6-8 weeks. These figures in themselves cry out for the level of support that is currently available and suggest that Swale in particular should be an area of concern and therefore investment.
A 2014 study from Brunel university stated that if the "proportion of women exclusively breastfeeding at 4 months was to increase by a margin of 4% to 45% national average, the NHS would save £11million per annum on the three main preventable infant infections, gastroenteritis, bronchiolitis and otitis media (ear and throat infections) and a further £21 million per lifetime of first time mothers on breast cancer treatment".
This underlines the importance of supporting breast feeding.
We also should bear in mind that cuts to breast feeding support will hit the poorest families hardest. The CCG health profile for 2014-2016 it states that children born into poverty are more likely to be artificially fed and more likely to become obese.
The Kent health annual report from 2012 also states that "reducing health inequalities is a major policy objective both nationally and locally. It is a statutory responsibility of local authorities and the NHS to take action to reduce health inequalities".
We should not be cutting peer support, which women say they find say important as they can feel comfortable and relaxed about taking about feeding their babies.
This is something that should be done by the specialists rather than given to the Health Visiting Team, without any extra resources, who already have very important responsibilities.
I urge everyone to respond to the KCC Consultation and join the Liberal Democrats in opposing these cuts.
You can find the consultation here.
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