16th June 2023
Today, Kensington Palace released a fabulous new film showcasing Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales shadowing health visitors to gain a deeper insight into their role. This film was launched to coincide with the second in a series of reports from the Royal Foundation’s 2023 Public Perceptions Survey which looks at public understanding of the role of the early years sector in shaping our earliest years and, in particular, the role of health visitors.
The new data from the survey show a widespread lack of public understanding about what health visitors do, or the breadth of the work that they carry out. In the film, The Princess speaks about her motivation to make the vital work of health visitors more visible, recognising that it is often out of sight and hidden behind families’ front doors in the community.
The film highlights the important work of health visitors and includes footage of The Princess shadowing health visiting teams at Homerton Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in London, recorded in late March, during a private visit that the Institute of Health Visiting helped to arrange. The film also includes footage from South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust, including The Princess’ visit to Nuneaton yesterday to meet health visitors who are participating in our field trial study to support babies’ social and emotional development (you can read more about the field trial here).
The Public Perception Survey findings show that more than half (56%) of the UK public understand little or nothing about the role health visitors play. Of those who know something about the role, they most strongly associate the profession with providing support with feeding and completing health reviews. Only around 40% of those people aware of the work of health visitors associated the role with supporting maternal, child and family mental health, parent-child relationships, and a child’s social and emotional development – all key elements of the role and vital in supporting the long-term development of children.
Health visitors support thousands and thousands of families every week and have been described by UNICEF-UK as ‘the backbone of early years services across the UK… the ‘safety net’ around all families’. They provide support to all families in the UK, covering pregnancy and the first five years of life and across a breadth of child and family health topics, to improve physical and mental health, child development and safeguarding. They support the government’s ambition that ‘every child has the best start in life’, regardless of where they live. When sufficiently resourced, health visitors can play a crucial role in ensuring that families get good, joined up support at the start of life – preventing, identifying and treating problems before they reach crisis point.
When speaking about the vital role of health visitors, Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales said:
“Families need support, like we’ve seen today, more than ever – and it’s so important that we celebrate this amazing role that health visitors play up and down the country….spending time with health visitors in recent weeks has been eye-opening and an incredible insight into their work.”
Alison Morton, iHV CEO said:
“This fantastic short film, released by Kensington Palace, shines a much-needed spotlight on the vital work of health visitors. Having Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales championing health visiting and speaking out about her experiences of shadowing health visitors in their work, will provide an enormous boost to the profession at this time.
“The footage captures some beautiful moments with parents, and their babies, speaking about some of the struggles of early parenthood and the difference that the health visitor made to them and their family. The Princess is a committed and powerful advocate for babies, young children and families and we are delighted to have been able to work with her and the Royal Foundation’s Centre for Early Childhood to support this project. The film speaks for itself, and I encourage everyone to watch it to learn more about health visitors’ vital work”.
During the day of shadowing, with members of the health visiting team from Homerton, The Princess met health visitors and they discussed the scope and breadth of their work, before observing clinical appointments and undertaking a home visit with a local family. The Princess heard about the impact of the care, guidance and reassurance that families receive from their health visitors, and learnt more about the contribution of health visiting to the wider system of support around parents and children. The film also features footage of The Princess meeting some of the parents they support during the Royal visit to Nuneaton yesterday.
The Princess’ work with health visitors forms part of the Shaping Us campaign, a long-term public awareness raising initiative spearheaded by Her Royal Highness which aims to increase understanding of the vital importance of the earliest years of our lives and the part that we all have to play in transforming the issue of early childhood to one of the most strategically important topics of our time.
We would like to express our heartfelt thanks to all the families, health visitors, and everyone who worked behind the scenes to make these numerous filming sessions, shadowing visits, and The Princess’ meetings with families and professionals, possible – we know that The Princess thoroughly enjoyed meeting all of you and is a great admirer and champion of the vital work that health visitors do – thank you!
Watch the film here