Up and down the country health visitors play a vital role in supporting new parents and making sure their babies are healthy. This Government has prioritised child health and reducing health inequality – visits from midwives and health professionals are fundamental to achieving this.
In 2011, the Government launched the health visitor programme, the aim of which was to make sure all parents would be able to access a service improving health outcomes for babies and very young children and reduce health inequality across England.
Under this programme, before reaching two and half years old, each child should be seen by a health visitor on five separate occasions. Health visitors are skilled at spotting issues which may develop into problems or risks to the family if not addressed at an early stage, for example a parent struggling to cope or a child health issue which needs special attention.
We prioritised child health because the start of life is especially important in laying the foundations of good health and wellbeing in later years - ensuring that rapid cognitive language, social, emotional and motor development are all taking place – and if not, to respond quickly.
“Warm, positive parenting has been found to help create a strong foundation”
It is well known that a child’s early experience and environment affect their brain development. Warm, positive parenting has been found to help create a strong foundation for the future. New evidence about neurological and child development highlights just how important the first months and years of life are for every child’s future.
To provide the care and support needed to help parents nurture their child, thousands more health visitors were needed. In recent years we have seen one of the most rapid and successful recruitment campaigns in NHS history. Between 2010 and 2015, we saw more than 4,000 new health visitors join the profession providing a consistently good service across the country.
What is more this doesn’t include health visitors employed directly by local authorities who only boost these figures further. As we move forward we will continue to look at how we support new nurses and health visitors with the right training.
“There is no question of how vital this work is in providing support to families”
There is no question of how vital this work is in providing support to families in communities across the country. That’s why I was very clear that these services must remain mandatory. This will be supported with £16 billion of public health funding allocated to local authorities between 2016 and 2021.
We know that this decision is supported by local authorities, parents, nurses and health visitors themselves. Our determination to continue guaranteeing this service is testament to the incredible work that is done by these professionals and the gratitude from those who have received support from them.
Nicola Blackwood, MP for Oxford West & Abingdon, Minister for Public Health & Innovation