25th July 2019
iHV welcomes the NSPCC ‘Fight for a Fair Start’ campaign – calling on Government to ensure all new parents receive a minimum of five face-to-face visits from the same health visitor.
Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, commented:
The Institute of Health Visiting welcomes the NSPCC Fight for a Fair Start campaign and its call to strengthen the essential support that health visitors should be offering to all families during the first years of their baby’s life.
The reduction in universal contacts by health visitors following the loss of one in four health visitors over the past 4 years, often accompanied by fragmenting of continuity of care, means that there may be a generation of children and new families with emotional health needs which are going unrecognised. Indeed, the Children’s Commissioner has already expressed her concern regarding hidden children, those with significant needs who may not be sufficiently well known to services. We are aware that the number of referrals to child mental health services has doubled over the past few years and this can only be set to increase further unless there is new investment into supporting new families.
Implementation of the new green paper on public health (Advancing our health: prevention in the 2020s) would seem to provide an impetus for reinvestment. We hope that the Treasury will take that opportunity using the next Spending Review before even more children’s lives are affected.
One in four families across England are missing out on vital health visits as their baby reaches their first birthday, increasing the risk of mental health issues with the parents going undetected. Data from Public Health England for 2017/18 has also revealed that these 12 month visits drop to around one in two for families living in London.
In addition, further NSPCC research highlights that antenatal visits are particularly inconsistent, with an estimated 38% of families not receiving a health visit before the mother gives birth.
The transfer of budgetary responsibility for health visiting services from the NHS to local authority public health in 2015 has coincided with a significant reduction in the public health budget and workforce numbers.
There has been a 26% fall in health visitors employed by the NHS operating nationwide between 2015 and 2019, with almost half of those still in the service working with caseloads of more than 400 children each. The Institute of Health Visiting recommends a maximum of one health visitor to every 250 children to ensure a safe service is delivered.
In response the NSPCC is launching a national campaign ‘Fight for a Fair Start’, and is calling on the Government to ensure all parents receive a minimum of five face-to-face visits undertaken by a consistent health visitor.
The NSPCC is inviting people to join the campaign by raising their voice and signing the Fight for a Fair Start petition.