Paediatricians, health visitors and GPs have joined forces to produce guidance for parents who are worried about their new baby.

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has joined forces with the British Association of Perinatal Medicine (BAPM – part of the RCPCH), the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV), and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) to produce a ‘fridge’ poster which signposts when and where parents should seek help for babies aged three months and under.

Over the summer, paediatricians reported that a small number of children may have become seriously ill because of delays in accessing health services*.  Health professionals are concerned that such delays could happen again this winter as some paediatricians are reporting seeing far fewer children than they would have expected.

Parents may not know they are still able to have face-to-face consultations, may find it difficult to get an appointment quickly when worried, or may be concerned about COVID transmission.  Added to this, new parents in some parts of the country have not had the usual access to health visitors (many of whom were redeployed into other roles during the pandemic), and lockdowns have meant some have not been able to see their extended families, friends and other parents.

Dr Helen Mactier, President of BAPM, said:

“Being a new parent can be daunting at any time, but having a new baby during a pandemic can throw up a lot of additional challenges for many families – even more so under lockdown.

“Many parents haven’t had the usual access to routine face-to-face appointments with a healthcare professional or been able to discuss a change in their baby’s appearance or behaviour with other new parents or their own friends and family. That can be really worrying.

“We want to let parents know what should or shouldn’t be of concern with regard to their baby’s health, and to put their minds at rest that the NHS is here for them if their baby is unwell.”

Dr Cheryll Adams, Executive Director of the Institute of Health Visiting, said:

“We’re delighted to support the publication of these new information posters and will be distributing them widely to health visitors and parents.  COVID-19 has shone a light on the challenges for new parents who may not be sure whether a change of behaviour or appearance in their new baby suggests that they are unwell.  These posters make clear when they should seek help which will be very reassuring.”

Professor Martin Marshall, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, said:

“Children rarely become ill with COVID-19 but there are other conditions which can be serious if left untreated.  We want parents of young children to seek medical help when they are concerned about the health of their child – and to know that despite lockdown restrictions, general practice services are available, although they might be delivered in a different way than usual. Where necessary, face-to-face appointments will be facilitated in as safe a way as possible. This guidance will help people to decide when they should get help as well as when they don’t need to worry.”


All babies have a routine physical examination between six and eight weeks, but these important appointments may be missed due to the impact of COVID-19. The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) have published a guide for parents about signs to look out for if they have been unable to get an appointment, or if it has been delayed.

At the 6-8 week check, babies have a thorough physical examination – this is usually done by a GP. Babies’ eyes, heart, hips and, for boys, testicles are checked – and they also have their weight, length and head circumference measured to ensure that baby is developing as they should.

Dr David Evans, Consultant Neonatologist and Vice President at RCPCH said:

“All newborns have a physical examination after birth. This picks up most, but not all, of the problems we look out for in the first weeks of life. That’s why it’s so important for babies to have a six-week check, which is usually carried out by a GP.”

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Executive Director of the Institute of Health Visiting said:

“We really want parents to attend this check-up, but we know that it may not always be possible due to the impact of COVID-19. If you’re a new parent who has struggled to get an appointment, or if it’s been delayed, we’ve produced some easy to follow signs to look out for while you wait to see a GP.

“The iHV is asking every health visitor to share this important guide with all parents when they are first in contact with them after the birth of their baby.”

The guidance says, if your baby does not have a six-to-eight-week check, you should ask yourself the following questions. If the answer to any is “yes”, you should contact your health visitor or GP.


  • Do you think your baby can’t ever fully open both eyes?
  • Do you think your baby doesn’t make good eye contact and hold his/her gaze at you?
  • Do you think that your baby doesn’t follow your face if you move your head from side to side when standing near him/her (less than one metre)?
  • Do you think that your baby’s eyes shake/flicker/ wobble? Do you think there is something unusual about, or in, your baby’s eyes, for example, the dark central area (pupil) looks cloudy or the eyeball is an unusual shape or size?
  • Are the whites of your baby’s eyes yellow?


  • When you change your baby’s nappy, do you find that one leg cannot be moved out sideways as far as the other?
  • Does one leg seem to be longer than the other?
  • Do you have any other concerns about your baby’s hips?


  • (If the answer to either of these is “yes”, you should speak to someone the same day)
  • Does your baby seem breathless or sweaty, at any time, especially when feeding?
  • Does your baby have blue, pale, blotchy, or ashen (grey) skin at any time?

This guidance is published as an iHV Parent Tip and is available here:

The Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) calls for Evidence from GPs and Paediatricians on how reductions in health visiting numbers since 2015 is affecting their workloads and patients.

The iHV is asking for GPs and Paediatricians to contact them with personal evidence of how the reductions in health visitor numbers since 2015 have affected their workloads and patients.

2015 was when commissioning of health visiting was moved to local authorities, accompanied by significant cuts to the public health budgets.

GPs and Paediatricians, please email your feedback to [email protected]