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Family nurse initiative cuts smoking and increases breastfeeding

The government’s Family Nurse Partnership pilots have shown modest success in encouraging pregnant women to stop smoking and to breastfeed their babies, suggests research.

The pilot programme, which is now in its second year, is designed to target first-time mothers, aged between 20 and 24, who have never been in employment, have no qualifications, or currently have no support from their baby’s father.

A University of London study involved the programme’s initial 10 pilot sites. A total of 1,003 babies have been born to families included in the pilots in their first two years.

Of these, 63 per cent were initially breastfed and more than a third were still being breast fed at six weeks. The researchers said this was “promising in relation to rates identified in national surveys for socio-economically disadvantaged mothers”.

The researchers also noted a “relative reduction” in smoking among pregnant women in the scheme, although they found “substantial differences” between the sites.

The service, which is based on the successful 30-year-old US Nurse Family Partnership model, is currently being piloted at 40 pilot sites across England. Another 10 will be launched by January.

Health minister Ann Keen said: “Early signs show that it is having a real impact on reducing smoking and improving breast feeding rates for young mothers.”

An earlier government-commissioned study by the University of London, published in July 2008, looked at the first 12 months of the pilots.

Overall it concluded the programme could be effectively delivered across England, though problems were noted on the recruitment and retention of mothers to the pilot schemes. It also noted that caseloads forced practitioners to work 20% more than their contracted hours.

The Scottish Government announced earlier this month that it would start a similar scheme early next year, with six nurses to begin training for the project in November.

Readers' comments (3)

  • Once again at what cost is this initiative being rolled out across the country. How many health visitors are now side-stepping into this role when Health visiting numbers are at their lowest ever! Also if all these professionals are working 20% above their allocated time to undertake this job shouldn't the numbers required be re-assessed? This was put forward as a success after the trials had been going for only 8 months! and had not been completed! This initiative was running in America where they do not have health visitors, shouldnt we look at how other mothers are being supported (or not) due to this initiative?

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  • Family Nurse /Health visitor - what's the difference?

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  • HVs also cut smoking and promote breast feeding. The 9.35 pm comment is totally right and the 10.08 comment - the difference is 4 nurses/HVs to 50 families v 1 HV to 800 with probably more vulnerable families within the 800 than the FNP has anyway.

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