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iHV joins call to strengthen the health visiting service and co-signs letter

16th May 2022

iHV has co-signed an open letter to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, calling on Government to give families a #FairStart. Signed by 25 organisations and several cross-party MPs, the letter urges the government to rebuild the health visiting service and to improve access to mental health services for new parents.

Further to the letter spear-headed by the NSPCC, in Westminster today, parents and professionals presented Sajid Javid with a Fight for a #FairStart petition signed by almost 22,000 people across England – urging him to improve access to perinatal mental health support, to rebuild health visiting services and to invest more in family help.

Georgina Mayes, iHV Policy and Quality Lead, attended the Parliamentary event to represent the Institute and provide evidence to support the call – including our most recent State of Health Visiting Survey and our popular useful infographic, “Who are health visitors and what do they do?” Health visitors provide a vital infrastructure of support for all families, addressing numerous cross-government department priorities for health, education and lifelong wellbeing and the prosperity of our nation. Yet this is often poorly understood, and places the health visiting service at high risk of cuts in the never ending short-term policy cycles.

Health visitors have the potential to do so much for our babies, our families, and our public services. The first 1001 days is a period of opportunity and vulnerability. Support for our babies, children and families is needed now, more than ever. Health visitors support children’s development and help to keep them safe. They are skilled Specialist Community Public Health Nurses able to engage and build relationships with families, understand their health and care needs, offer support and intervention, and broker engagement with other services.

Current resourcing decisions mean that many health visitors cannot effectively do the important work they were trained to do. Since 2015, when responsibility for health visiting was transferred to local authorities, it is estimated that at least 30% of the health visiting workforce has been lost, with further losses forecast. The Public Health Grant has fallen in real terms from £3.99 billion in 2015–16 to £3.3 billion in 2022-23, this is at a time when need has increased.

NSPCC’s new analysis of the latest Public Health England data shows that 19% of babies didn’t receive their 12-month health visitor review by the time they were 15-months old. In addition, the number of babies missing this vital check is up from five years ago when 18% of 15-month-old babies had missed their 12-month review, equating to a 10% decrease in the proportion of babies who had had their 12-month review by the time they were 15 months.

The under-resourced health visiting services are causing a postcode lottery of access to support.

The ‘Fight for a Fair Start’ campaign aims to improve access to mental health support for the one in five mums and one in ten dads who experience perinatal mental health problems during pregnancy and in the first year after birth. With the right support parents can continue to develop a healthy relationship with their baby, but without this support problems can worsen and leave parents struggling with day-to-day tasks.

‘Thank you from the iHV and all health visitors’ to all the parents and organisations who recognise the value of an effective health visiting service and have supported this campaign.

Together, we are fighting for a #FairStart for every family.