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Health visiting explained
Post date: 6 Nov 2015

Almost all of us have met, or received care from a health visitor in our lifetime – either as a baby, child or as a new parent. But how many of us genuinely understand their role? Most of us assume they spend their day weighing babies and drinking tea, but we couldn't be more wrong. To clear some things up, we asked Phoebe Nwobiri from our health visiting team to answer a few questions:

What’s the normal educational ‘path’ into health visiting? Phoebe

All health visitors are qualified nurses, from mental health, adult, paediatric and learning disability services, and the majority have more than one qualification. We also have a few direct-entry midwives without general nursing qualifications.

Give three reasons why someone should become a health visitor.

  1. Health visiting is rewarding, exciting, and there always an element of surprise. No two visits are ever the same.
  2. Health visitors have the privilege of seeing families in their own environment, and they empower families to make informed choices about their health needs and care.
  3. Health visitors have a hugely important role to play in a young child’s life - they act as advocates and help children to achieve their maximum potential by getting them ‘school-ready’ – a journey that begins from birth.

What’s the most difficult thing about being a health visitor?

It can be emotionally draining, and on any given day a health visitor can feel like a "Jack of all trades” because we need to have such a broad knowledge of the local facilities, services and other professionals to refer onto where needed.

What are the criteria used by health visitors when you visit a family with a new baby?

Health visiting services are free to every family from antenatal to five years old, so the only criteria is that there should be a child aged under five in the family. Once we go on our first visit with a family, we use the "Family Needs Assessment” to assess needs.

How often do you see new parents and their baby? Is it just the one check when the baby’s 6 weeks old?

HV offer five core services to every family who falls under the universal care pathway. These are:

  • Antenatal contact
  • New birth visit
  • Maternal mental health assessment (MMH1)
  • 10 to 12 months developmental review
  • 2 to 2.5 year developmental reviews.

We also run a drop in well baby clinics every day of the week within Medway, where parents and carers can come and get their babies weighed and get free advice from a qualified health visitor.

Additionally, we offer tailored services at the point of need to those families that come under the universal partnership and universal partnership plus care pathways.

The universal partnership care pathway is for families with any form of vulnerability, e.g, mental health issues, no access to public funds, learning difficulties, housing problems, jobless households and some single parent families.

Universal partnership plus is for families with multi-agency involvement and safeguarding issues.

So what exactly does a health visitor do?

A health visitor delivers the healthy child programme. They support parents with basic parenting skills, offer health promotion advice, and health education. They can refer families to a huge number of supporting health and social care services to ensure the child and parents receive the right care, advice and support. They will also reassure, listen and advise parents to help them make the right choices for their families.

How do you work with local partners to make sure every family receives the best and most appropriate all-round support?

We work closely with social care (via the local authority), children’s centres, our children’s therapy services at MCH, charitable organisations, voluntary organisations, midwives, with our NHS colleagues at Medway Maritime Hospital and many more to ensure that children receive tailor-made, patient-centred care.

This is achieved through monthly internal team meetings, local Advisory Group meetings involving a number of local organisations, and via one-to-one liaison with professionals via phone call and referral systems.

It’s vital that we ensure that every family receives the support they deserve, and in the simplest and most efficient way. That’s why our role is so vital – we act as liaison between a number of local organisations who can provide this support during the formative years of child’s life as well as individually making a difference to families requesting our help.

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