A MOVE to transform children’s health services will help save a cash-strapped council £6.75m over a decade following a fall in government public health funding, but will end up costing the taxpayer much more, it has been claimed.

North Yorkshire County Council children’s services boss Councillor Janet Sanderson said the Children’s Health Programme overhaul would lead to service users’ experiences improving, despite costing £750,000 less every year.

The authority’s executive has approved creating a partnership with the NHS to run the services following the first reduction in the county’s £25m public health budget since responsibility for them was transferred from the NHS in 2013.

The Healthy Child Programme is a universal preventative child and family health promotion programme for children aged 0 to 19 years and its aim is to “ensure that every child gets the good start they need to lay the foundations of a healthy life”.

Key services include universal health checks by health visitors, health promotion, including tackling childhood obesity, and prevention work, such as school nursing.

In May, the county’s public health bosses warned of impending “hard choices” over key frontline services ahead of funding cuts of about 12 per cent.

A report by the council’s children’s service last year highlighted the importance of such services, as across North Yorkshire around one in five children were overweight when they started school and one in three children by the time they left primary school. It stated: “Once established, obesity is notoriously difficult to treat, so prevention and early intervention are very important.”

Outlining the planned changes ahead of a public consultation being launched next week, Cllr Janet Sanderson told a meeting of the council’s executive that the changes would lead to an improved experience for service users. She added: “This joint working arrangement will enable us to address things like duplication, gaps in the system and enable more information sharing, which has been a really long-standing problem. It also addresses over-assessment and ensures that interventions are absolutely evidence-based and based on needs.”

However, leader of the council’s Independent group, Councillor Stuart Parsons, described the authority’s move to cut funding for the service by ten per cent as “short-termism”, saying it would have a knock-on impact across areas ranging from education to long-term health. He said: “It is terrifying that they can even contemplate doing this sort of thing. This is going to hit the ones hardest who we are supposed to be supporting most.

“They have got to go into the council’s reserves to fund this, they are creating more and more problems for North Yorkshire in the future.”