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The Importance of the Health Visitor Role in Strategic Clinical Networks

12th March 2018

A blog written by Melanie Farman, Specialist Health Visitor in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust :

“The Importance of the Health Visitor Role in Strategic Clinical Networks (SCN) – My Role as an iHV Champion and Health Visitor Representative on the SCN”.


Melanie Farman, Specialist Health Visitor in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health – Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Since its inception, I have been fortunate to be a member of the North West Coast Strategic Clinical Network for Perinatal Mental Health (NWCSCN PMH). The aim of the NWCSCN PMH is to provide leadership and support through clinical consensus to reduce unnecessary variation in perinatal mental health services, and to improve health outcomes for women, their families and children.

It is important, in my role as Specialist Health Visitor for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health and iHV Champion, that I contribute to the NWCSCN PMH and promote service development in line with policy guidance and local and national targets that relate to perinatal and infant mental health. Part of my role is to be an advocate for families with perinatal mental health difficulties and, by attending the NWCSCN meetings, I am in a good position to highlight gaps in local provision.

The National Maternity Review (2016) and Five Year Forward View for Mental Health (2016) both highlight that together providers and commissioners need to deliver improvements to perinatal mental health services as a national public health priority. Often there may be a perception that leadership is a skill exclusively held by managers; I am not a manager but feel, through playing an active role in the NWCSCN PMH, that I am honing leadership skills and developing strategies I can use in my role as Specialist Health Visitor for Perinatal and Infant Mental Health and iHV Champion.

Through membership of the NWCSCN PMH, locally we have been able to take part in a mapping exercise to provide an accurate understanding of services within the region and to inform evidence-based pathways of care. The commitment to the NWCSCN PMH also led to a commission for delivering Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Awareness training to Midwives across the Lancashire and South Cumbria Sustainable Transformational Partnership (STP).

Furthermore, my role in the NWCSCN PMH is to ensure that focus is on keeping the baby in mind when considering the care provided to women experiencing perinatal mental health illnesses and their families; as the evidence strongly indicates the need for early intervention and consideration of the infant’s mental health. This is brought to the fore by Leadsom, Field, Burstow and Lucas (2013) who demonstrate in the 1001 Critical Days cross-party manifesto that the earliest experiences shape a baby’s brain development and has lifelong impact on wellbeing. Being part of the NWCSCN PMH is wise as the collective can make change happen and improve services for women experiencing perinatal mental health illnesses and their families. As Helen Keller so eloquently said, ‘Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.’

Melanie Farman, Specialist Health Visitor in Perinatal and Infant Mental Health, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


Please do join us at our iHV National Multi-agency Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Conference: The hidden challenges –  being held on 24 April 2018 in Manchester.

This multi-agency conference is a brilliant opportunity to get the latest updates and evidence in perinatal and infant mental health. As well as stimulating learning through debate and discussion via presentations from internationally-acclaimed speakers, the day will offer focused opportunities to learn from each other through sharing best and promising practice in PIMH.