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How cuts hit our children

CHECKS on the development of infants in their early months can be crucial to their life-long wellbeing. In theory, all undergo these checks by the age of 10 months, but figures from the HSE show that the reality is well below that target across the country.

In the east, only 61pc are seen within the timescale; in the west, 66pc; in the north-east, 83pc; in the south, 89pc. In some blackspots, the figures are much worse. In the Dublin south-west area, only 6pc are screened on time.

As a result, defects or potential defects in, for example, eyesight or hearing may go undetected, with grave consequences in later life.

The problem arises chiefly from the moratorium on recruitment, which has had a heavy impact on public-health nurses. It has also affected mental health services. The inspector of mental hospitals has reported that in one institution, St Davnet's Hospital in Monaghan, 60 staff have left the service in the past two years and have not been replaced.

Figures like these show some of the reality of the umbrella phrase "health cuts". We all know that they have occurred, and we all know that further cuts, all across the public services, cannot be avoided. The incoming government will have immensely difficult decisions to make. Let us hope that it will be brave enough, and bright enough, to get its priorities right for the welfare of the infants.