Today’s welcomed debate in Westminster Hall on the “Provision of healthcare support services in the period between conception and age two”, brought together a united voice of support for investment in the earliest years of life which crossed usual party divisions, based on the indisputable evidence that the first 1,001 days are the most crucial period of human development.

In her opening remarks, Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP explained the importance of today’s debate which “Takes place against the backdrop of such a disruptive and damaging year. This year, as ever, it is the very youngest, the very oldest and the most vulnerable in our society who suffer when times are tough.” The vital role of health visitors and their leadership for prevention and early intervention were mentioned on many occasions throughout the debate. Special tribute was paid to Cheryll Adams and the work of the Institute of Health Visiting in championing both of these causes.

Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP opens debate on the Provision of healthcare support services in the period between conception and age two

During the debate, Members from across the House brought challenge to the Government with a consensus that cutting the public health grant was the falsest of false economies during times of austerity. The short-sightedness of these measures were summed up in the question, “I’m not sure what the Government thought they were going to save?” and with a wealth of evidence shared on the spiralling costs of late intervention to the whole of society.

In her response, the Minister Jo Churchill MP spoke publicly about the crucial role of health visitors, and midwives stating:

“a good health visitor can change a life, when it comes to moving on. An excellent midwife changed my journey, when I was struggling to feed my children for the first 10 days. Everyone says that those things are easy, but there is nothing easy about it, but after managing to get support people, hopefully, really feel they can fly. That is why it is vital”.

The Minister concluded her remarks by reiterating the Government’s commitment to the principle that:

“Prevention is better than cure. We want to identify and treat problems from the earliest stage and help parents to care for their children, change and improve behaviours, and protect against preventable diseases. We know that if parents and babies are well supported in the vital period from conception to age two, they are set up for a lifetime of better mental and physical health.”

At the Institute of Health Visiting, we would like to extend our sincere thanks to all the Parliamentarians who are championing the cause of babies and young children, and the health visiting service intended to provide a vital “safety-net” for all children. We particularly thank Rt Hon Andrea Leadsom MP for calling the debate and Tim Loughton MP who was bestowed a new honorary title today as the “Member for health visiting” – we thank them both for their tireless support.

It does feel like the tide is turning for babies and young children – we now await with renewed optimism the outcome of the Early Years Healthy Development review when it reports its findings and action from the Government to make the recommendations a reality.


If you missed out watching the Petitions Committee debate on the impact of Coronavirus on maternity and parental leave on Monday afternoon, then don’t worry the links are below for you.

There were powerful speeches in the debate including the opening speech by Catherine McKinnell, Chair of the Petitions Committee and other MPs.

You can watch the session on Parliament TV or read the transcript (there were 22 mentions of health visitors).


The Petitions Committee has scheduled a debate on the impact of Coronavirus on maternity and parental leave – taking place this afternoon (Monday 5 October) from 4:30pm and Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Committee, will open the debate.

The debate will be available to watch online here.

Following the Prime Minister’s appearance in front of the Liaison Committee last week, where the Chair asked him about the Government’s response to the maternity report, the Committee has written to the Prime Minister to ask him to read the report and respond before the debate.

You can read the letter here:

Watch the Chair question the Prime Minister at the Liaison Committee session here:

The Committee has also written again to Paul Scully MP, Minister for Small Business, Consumers and Labour Markets, to ask for an update on his department’s plans for meeting with representatives of the baby group sector. In the letter, the Committee highlights how the new restrictions on meetings of more than six people have caused further confusion to this sector, and requests urgent clarification.

You can read the letter here:

Over the past few days many of you have supported us in our preparation of a briefing for MPs for the Parliamentary Debate on health visiting cuts which took place on Wednesday afternoon (23 October). If you weren’t able to watch the debate at the time, we have the link here:

If you haven’t yet had time to look at our blueprint Vision for the future of health visiting (Health Visiting in England: A Vision for the Future), please do read it – you are going to be hearing a lot more about it. It has attracted incredible support from those who truly can make a difference and it was very encouraging to hear Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Prevention, Public Health and Primary Care, referring to it, and stating her desire, during the debate, to meet with us to discuss it.

When we meet with Jo Churchill, we will be taking with us the results of our latest State of Health Visiting survey. Thank you to those of you who have already completed it, and some of your anonymous comments have already been shared.  But we do need a good sample size to make the findings robust. So, health visitors, please do take the time to complete it as we will continue to use the aggregated data in our ongoing lobbying of government and will be publishing the survey report at our Leadership conference on 3 December – you are welcome to join us for this inspiring day. Tickets are selling fast so don’t miss out!

The link to the survey has been shared out via email to health visitors, however, if you cannot locate it, please contact [email protected] to request the link.

Yesterday there was a debate in Parliament on the First 1001 Critcal Days – the motion relating to the Inter-Ministerial Group on Early Years Family Support, opened by Andrea Leadsom MP.

We are delighted that health visiting got mentioned on a number of occasions. The work of the iHV and Cheryll got a particular mention by Tim Loughton (and a well deserved hear-hear for her tireless work to promote all the work that health visitors do- starting at 17:10:30 ) – with Tim also quoting from our statement.

Prior to the debate, iHV sent a position statement and briefing paper to several Ministers and MPs providing information and background on the services that health visitors are able to offer, and that have seriously disintegrated since 2015 and are now at tipping point – affecting the lives of generations of children.


On Thursday last week (19 July), there was a debate on perinatal mental illness in Parliament. It was so encouraging to hear MPs and ministers talking about health visitors.

In an extract from the debate, Dr Paul Williams MP said:

Perhaps a little less well known is the dramatic fall in the number of health visitors. Since 2015, there has been a loss of more than 2,000—almost a 20% drop—so each health visitor has to work harder. I commend health visitors for the work they do but, overall, women are experiencing a drop in services.

He further added:

The disinvestment in health visiting is significant; there can be no solution to the problem while health visiting is not properly resourced.

We are grateful to the Minister for Mental Health and Inequalities, Jackie Doyle-Price MP, for sharing her very positive views on health visiting and the work of the Institute, following her recent visit to Manchester to find out more about health visitors and iHV PIMH Champions.

An extract from the debate – Jackie Doyle-Price MP said:

I want to come back to health visitors. I am a firm believer that health visitors are uniquely placed to identify mothers who are at risk of suffering, or are suffering, perinatal mental health problems and to ensure they get the early support they need. In fact, I visited the Institute of Health Visiting only a couple of weeks ago and heard a moving story from a new mum who had gone through a mental health crisis. It is striking that she had experienced all the feelings we have talked about—she felt there was something wrong with her, she could not bond with her baby, and she got more and more depressed and withdrawn about it. The other interesting thing about that case was that it was dad who felt utterly powerless to do anything. Only their relationship with their health visitor enabled them both to reach out for help.

I am under no illusions about the importance of health visitors. I was privileged to meet so many fantastic advocates for them as part of the NHS’s 70th birthday. They are our eyes and ears in so many ways, and they are our intelligence network in tackling adverse childhood events. I am full of praise for the important job they do in supporting new parents and families through a child’s early years. I am really pleased about the success of the Institute of Health Visiting perinatal and infant mental health champions training programme. Those 570 champions play a crucial role in spreading good practice and early identification of mental health problems.

Some hon. Members raised concerns about the decline in the number of health visitors. There was a substantial increase in the run-up to 2015, and there has been a fall since. I am bothered about that, so I will look at how we can encourage local authorities to alter that situation, recognising that in some areas local leaders have realised that health visitors can do so much more to deliver better outcomes for their communities. Blackpool, for example, has substantially increased the number of visits. I am really looking forward to seeing the outcome of that work, so that we can encourage that good practice in other local authorities.