Government ministers have written to NHS managers encouraging them to set up more Family Nurse Partnership teams.
FNP teams – in which specially trained nurses work with vulnerable first time mothers from early pregnancy until the child is two years old – are currently operating at 40 sites with a further ten due to be added in January.
In a letter sent to primary care trusts this month, health minister Ann Keen and children’s minister Dawn Primarolo said: “We are writing to draw to your attention to the powerful contribution we both believe the FNP programme can offer as a preventive and early intervention service for potentially high need, high cost families in your area.
“Two years of testing FNP in England has shown that it can be delivered well, it is welcomed by vulnerable first time, young mothers and fathers and the early impacts look promising. It is becoming a key programme offering a real opportunity to prevent some of our most vulnerable children facing a lifetime of exclusion and failure,” they said.
An evaluation of the second year of the programme, published in September, suggested FNP teams were having a positive effect on reducing smoking during pregnancy and increasing rates of breastfeeding.