The Scottish government has announced that it is to further expand the Family Nurse Partnership programme beyond its original age cohort of teenage mothers.
The government said in a statement released today that, from April 2016, it will also be offered to eligible 20-24 year olds.
“Through this programme the children I meet are healthier and happier”
Further adaptations will also be rolled out over the course of the year thanks to a funding commitment of £10.7m in 2016-17, it added.
The programme began in January 2010 and has supported more than 3,000 teenage mothers, with “very high rates of engagement and low numbers leaving”, said the statement. The government stated that it aimed to make the programme available to up to 8,000 first-time mothers by 2018-19.
The Family Nurse Partnership, which was imported to the UK from the US, sees expectant mothers visited by a specially trained nurse every one or two weeks during pregnancy and throughout the first two years of their baby’s life.
Nurses support mothers with improving the home learning environment, preventative health measures, parenting skills, breastfeeding, better diet information, developing positive relationships and on education and employment.
A recent study on the programme in England looked at a range of outcomes relating to both mother and child, but concluded there was little added benefit from the family nurse partnership.
But in its statement, the Scottish government noted the study focused on short-term outcomes, which were not the “primary or only reason” for bringing programme to Scotland.
“Longer term child development, safeguarding and parental life-course outcomes are just as important to us,” it said.
The government said that a range of adaptations were now being developed, based on learning from the past five years, combined with the findings from the English trial.
“We look forward to embracing the next phase and continuing to build on our learning”
These would include making FNP available to eligible mothers up to the age of 25, new clinical learning and guidance on critical areas, such as smoking cessation in pregnancy and supporting parenting and child development, and tailoring the programme for local needs.
The aim is to develop and test a model that will “retain the many strengths” of the FNP, including the powerful engagement between family nurses and vulnerable families – but also achieve greater improvements in outcomes for vulnerable families and be more personalised, said the statement.
The expansion and adaption of the FNP programme will be in tandem with the planned growth of the health visiting workforce by 500 over the next four years.
Scottish public health minister Maureen Watt said: “Through this programme the children I meet are healthier and happier through the confidence of their parents to make positive choices. That’s why it is important that more families are going to be able to benefit from this programme.
“In rolling out FNP, we will work closely with stakeholders to ensure that we plan this expansion taking account of our commitment to have 500 additional health visitors,” she added.
Joan Wilson, NHS Tayside’s chief nurse for children and families, said over 730 teenage mothers had enrolled on the programme since it started in her area.
“It has been inspiring to see how well young mothers, their partners and wider family members engage with our family nurses,” she said. “We look forward to embracing the next phase and continuing to build on our learning.”