One in four families in England miss out on baby health visits
Tuesday, July 30, 2019
The NSPCC calls for more investment in health visiting to ensure that new parents and babies receive all the support they need.
Preliminary figures from Public Health England for 2018-19 highlight that many children are falling through the net when it comes to the 12 month developmental check. Figures show that 77 per cent of children received this, compared with 75 per cent the previous year.
Meanwhile research by the NSPCC reveals that antenatal visits are inconsistent, with an estimated 38 per cent of families not receiving a health visit before the mother gives birth.
The figure is based on Freedom of Information responses from 32 of the 149 local authorities contacted which were able to share the number of families that were eligible for and received the antenatal visit from 1 April 2017 to 31 March 2018.
The NSPCC attributes the drop in visits to cuts to local authority budgets and fewer health visitors.
According to the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), there was a 26 per cent fall in health visitors employed by the NHS operating nationwide between 2015 and 2019. Almost half of those still in the service are working with caseloads of more than 400 children each.
The iHV recommends a maximum of one health visitor to every 250 children to ensure a ‘safe service’.
‘Fight for a fair start’
In response, the NSPCC is launching a national campaign, ‘Fight for a Fair Start’, and calling on the Government to ensure all parents receive a minimum of five face-to-face visits undertaken by the same health visitor so perinatal mental health problems are quickly identified.
Research suggests that up to one in five mothers and one in ten fathers experience perinatal mental health problems, which can make it difficult for them to look after and bond with their baby, potentially affecting the child’s overall development.
The campaign, which is supported by Jo Malone London which funds direct services to new and prospective parents, is also calling for appropriate investment from the NHS to ensure all specialist community care teams are supported to deliver the ‘gold standard in care’, so families get the support they need no matter where they live.
In England, all families should receive five home visits from qualified health professionals, starting during pregnancy and continuing at regular intervals under their child reaches two and a half. Meanwhile Scotland offers 11 visits, Wales nine and Northern Ireland seven.
The Health and Social Care Committee has recommended that as part of a ‘refresh’ of the Healthy Child Programme, the Government sets out proposals for increasing the number of routine visits.