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East London family nurses offer language support to young mums

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Nurses in Newham are helping families learn English as part of the east London borough’s Family Nurse Partnership scheme.

About one in five young mums involved in the Newham scheme speak little or no English so family nurses have been working alongside interpreters to deliver the intensive home-visiting programme.

They have also been helping mothers access English lessons, said family nurse Holly Murray.

“We have a large population of people who don’t speak English as a first language so often the first port of call is to get them into free English classes that the borough provides,” she told Nursing Times.

“We have a large population of people who don’t speak English as a first language”

Holly Murray

“We can then look at getting them into college courses or refer them to other agencies that help young people continue their education,” she said.

The service, which is provided by East London Foundation Trust and was set up in 2013, comprises four family nurses, a supervisor and an administrator. The team works closely with Newham Council and midwives at Barts Health Trust.

“One of the great things about the scheme in Newham is its diversity in terms of our team and our client group,” said FNP supervisor Zoe Vowles.

“Our team is made up of a diverse range of professionals from midwifery, perinatal mental health, paediatrics, sexual health and school nursing and that diversity has enabled us to support each other to deliver the programme,” she said.

“It is quite different to the traditional nursing role and has involved things like getting to grips with how the education system works in Newham”

Holly Murray

She said early findings showed positive feedback from families who valued the extra support from nurses which can include help with parenting skills and relationships and work to boost young women’s confidence and aspirations.

“Newham family nurses are working in partnership with interpreters with 20% of the current caseload ensuring mothers who do not speak English or speak every little English can gain access to the service,” added Ms Vowles.

Ms Murray said taking on these kinds of non-traditional nursing roles had been a “big learning curve”.

“It is quite different to the traditional nursing role and has involved things like getting to grips with how the education system works in Newham,” she said.

Fellow family nurse Kirsty Blair, who previously worked as a paediatric nurse, said a key aspect of their work was giving young mothers confidence to use other early years support services like children’s centres.

Ms Murray added: “Because Newham has quite a big population of people newly arrived in the UK or new to Newham, when you visit the first few times it can seem like they are on an island because they have come to the borough without those family and friends support networks.

“So you need to integrate them into what’s going on like getting them down to the children’s centre to increase their social network and opportunities for the child to be out and about and play,” she said.

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