The role that health visitors play in supporting families during the first three months of a baby’s life is under threat, says the Community Practitioners’ and Health Visitors’ Association (CPHVA).
The CPHVA’s Director, Mark Jones has asked for an urgent meeting with Professor Aynsley-Green, National Clinical Director for Children so that health visitors’ concerns can be highlighted and the NSF’s recommendations in this area reviewed.
Mark Jones said: ‘Unfortunately we have real concerns with the content of the maternity section, which as it is written seems to eliminate the key role of the health visitor in supporting families in the first three months of a child’s life.’
‘This is illogical and unrealistic given the current vacancies in the midwifery service and the challenges it already faces with adequately meeting the needs of mothers during the antenatal period and during the birth of their child.’
There were also ‘major implications’ in terms of the numbers and training for midwives to take on this additional work. For example, the current direct entry midwifery programme would have to be extended to cover child development and child protection.
In a briefing for members, the CPHVA said: ‘We are particularly disappointed in the lack of any real recognition of the health visitor role postnatally. Their role currently involves meeting the needs of the whole family, including the child and the mother in the postnatal period with a specific focus on the promotion of positive health.’
The NSF recommends that mothers should in the future be visited by the midwife for one month post delivery and for up to three months if the need exists.
The CPHVA said: ‘It seems completely inappropriate that midwives, who are already struggling with resource challenges in delivering the necessary antenatal and postnatal care, should now be asked to extend their service further into the postnatal period.’
Often cuts to health visitor jobs have been motivated by the need to meet waiting list and other targets, rather than supporting early interventions in childhood for long-term health gain.
The CPHVA, however, did commend the production of ‘this excellent document’, which raises the profile of the health support required for children and young people.
Recently, the CPHVA called for the immediate recruitment of an extra 1,000 health visitors to implement the recommendations in the Chief Nursing Officer’s review on the contribution that community nursing makes to vulnerable children.