Addressing our breastfeeding conference yesterday (19 April), Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, pledged to introduce an additional mandated health visit at 3-4 months, as part of Labour’s commitment to making Britain’s children the healthiest in the world.

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health addressing the breastfeeding conference

Jonathan Ashworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Health, addressing the breastfeeding conference

Labour will commit an additional £25 million for health visiting to fund the pledge, paid for from Labour’s costed National Child Health Fund and forms part of Labour’s effort to tackle health inequalities and improve early intervention services.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director iHV, said:

“The iHV called for the mandation of a 3-4 month check in its evidence to the Health Visiting Service Mandation Review  in March 2017. Unfortunately, this wasn’t supported by the government but it is very encouraging to now have the support for this contact from the Shadow Health Secretary.

“The 3-4 month check is a critical developmental milestone when many families may require additional support with a range of issues. What has been proved in England is that, without mandation, commissioning of health visiting services is largely a ‘race to the bottom’ by cash-struck local authorities. Only the mandated contacts are being commissioned universally but they are still not being delivered universally.”

Announced today (1 March 2017), the public health minister Nicola Blackwood has decided to continue the mandation of the universal 5 health visiting checks which are offered between pregnancy and up to age 2½ years, as set out in Healthy Child Programme (0 to 5).  The iHV warmly welcomes this decision.

Professor Viv Bennett, Chief Nurse at PHE, said:

“These reviews are important opportunities to support mothers’ mental health, discuss immunisations, breastfeeding and healthy diet options for babies and provide referral to any specialist services if necessary.

“We are very pleased that the government has decided to continue to mandate these vital services. We are committed to supporting local government to ensure these checks are given to every young child.”

The review into the mandation of the health visiting services was carried out by Public Health England (PHE) with information fed through from professionals and stakeholders.  PHE’s published report recommended this decision.

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, executive director at iHV, commented:

“The government has made the right decision for children, and for society, as these reviews allow health visitors to identify health needs early and to provide appropriate interventions and support to families.  However, the 5 mandated checks are the minimum that should be commissioned.  There was a strong call for mandation of the 3-4 month review and it’s a shame that government didn’t decide to act on that.

“We hope that local authority commissioners will consider ensuring that review is a part of their local programmes as this would enhance mother and infant mental health, improve the nutritional status of families, reduce accidents in the first year of life and strengthen the uptake of immunisations. The next step must be reinvestment into public health so this contact is provided for every infant.”

Viv Bennett’s blog, published today, summarises this decision.