A children’s health service’s contract with the council has been terminated by “mutual” consent after it was downgraded to the health watchdog’s lowest rating.

Solutions 4 Health Barnet provides an integrated health visiting and school nursing service that supports children up to age 19 and their families in the borough.

The health visiting team provides Barnet’s Healthy Child Programme, which requires children to receive five mandatory checks between 28 weeks pregnancy and two-and-a-half years old.

But Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspectors found that a six to eight-week postnatal review was only given to 21% of infants between April and June last year.

Jane Ray, CQC deputy director of operations in London, blamed the issues on “staff shortages and a high demand for the service”, creating a risk that health needs might not be identified.

Other issues highlighted in the report included cases where families with safeguarding concerns were “not handled appropriately”, and the long waits some experienced before being seen by the service.

The health watchdog ultimately gave the entire service its lowest rating of ‘inadequate’ following visits last September, downgrading it from ‘requires improvement’.

Barnet Council has now said that it has “mutually agreed” with Solutions 4 Health to end its contract from April 1, with Whittington Health NHS Trust now set to run its Healthy Child Programme.

Following the release of the CQC report, Solutions 4 Health hit out at the authority, claiming that its rating was an “inevitable consequence of… severe underfunding” – something Barnet disputes.

A spokesperson for the health provider said that it had struggled to counteract the “acute challenges” it faced with regards to “funding, staffing, process and practice”.

They said: “In April 2022, we inherited a situation which was significantly more challenging than the impression provided by the council during contractual discussions.”

The spokesperson added: “We understand that the council has now accepted our evidence and will be providing significant additional funding and reduced demands to the new provider.

“Had this additional funding been provided when we initially raised these concerns with the local authority, the current situation could have been avoided.”

A spokesperson for Barnet Council said: “Barnet Council does not agree with Solutions4Health’s analysis of the situation as a contracted provider.”

They added: “The new partnership with Whittington Health NHS will ensure Barnet Council can give every child in the borough a healthy and robust start during the most fundamental years of their development and growth.”