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How Health Visitors in Portsmouth and Southampton Are Supporting Families who have Children with Disabilities

30th September 2016

Carol Stevens, Specialist Health Visiting Lead, shares how health visitors in Portsmouth and Southampton are supporting families who have children with disabilities.

The specialist health visiting service was formed as part of the Solent NHS Trust in response to the government drive to improve outcomes for children with disabilities. Two specialist health visiting teams working across Portsmouth and Southampton are unique in terms of how they are able to focus on delivering an enhanced healthy child programme to families who are caring for a child with a disability. This contrasts with many other areas in the country where the role has not been developed to the same extent or is limited to specific areas of need such as continence or specialist Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) clinics.

The following story shows how health visitors are using their specialist skills to support families who have children with the most complex needs:

Pam moved to Portsmouth when her son Ryan was two years of age. He had previously been diagnosed with severe developmental delay and hearing loss.

“I was relieved when the specialist health visitor contacted me as I did not know the area or have any family living nearby. She quickly put me in touch with all the services and followed things up to make sure that we were getting the right support.

Ryan would hit me and when I said stop he wouldn’t. I often felt like I could not cope anymore. She helped me find ways to manage his behaviour and enjoy spending time with him. He is hearing impaired and she worked with the therapists and nursery to help me learn how to communicate with him better. She also sorted out problems with appointments so that he could be seen sooner. She has always been there to help and give advice. She makes me feel that I am the best mum”.

Key messages

  • The health visitor was able to quickly develop an effective professional relationship. This allowed her to support the parent emotionally in order for the parent to be able to focus on her child’s needs.
  • The service was able to respond quickly when the family most needed the help.
  • The specialist skills of the health visitor meant that she could manage many of the issues herself that were identified through the assessment process, and was also able to refer to and coordinate other services through the Team Around the Child.
Southampton and Portsmouth specialist HV Teams.

Southampton and Portsmouth specialist HV Teams.

Southampton and Portsmouth specialist HV Teams.

Southampton and Portsmouth specialist HV Teams.

Carol Stevens Specialist Health Visiting Lead