Released on: 18 January 2024
Responding to the State of Health Visiting, UK Survey Report: Millions supported as others miss out, Angela McConville, Chief Executive at NCT, said:
Health visitors play an instrumental role in triaging early and crucial support for women in the postnatal period. However, a severe rise in demand and a lack of workforce capacity coupled with significant long-term cuts to health visiting services, many new mothers, parents and their babies are at risk of being dangerously neglected.
The cost-of-living crisis has forced families to make decisions no new parent should ever face, with many struggling whether to feed their baby or keep them warm. The situation is showing no signs of improving, instead health visitors are seeing widening health inequalities, delays in children’s development and a rise in poor perinatal mental health.
We know from our 18 NCT Baby Bundles schemes across the UK, who together support over 3,000 new families in crisis each year by providing clothing, toiletries, and new baby essentials, NCT volunteers are reporting significant increases in demand. Many NCT branches have seen the number of bundles they distribute double or triple in the last two years. They are also seeing an increase in the range of essential items needed, such as toothbrushes and toothpaste, and other basic hygiene products, not just newborn essentials.
Similarly, we know more women are struggling with their mental health postnatally, with suicide one of the leading causes of maternal deaths. They might find it difficult to access or aren’t eligible for clinical services and are often unsure where to turn. Our NCT Parents in Mind services, which provide community-based perinatal mental health support across the country, have sadly seen a rise in the number of women, often with increasingly complex needs, being referred to our services.
Despite their vital contribution to ease pressures on emergency services, many health visitors are dangerously overstretched with reported caseloads of 500-700 children. We fully support the call for a cross-government commitment to prioritise and safeguard the health and wellbeing of all babies. The government must support local authorities to assure urgent investment in health visiting services not only to protect and support families, but to stop the increasing postcode lottery of support so that all women and babies are afforded equitable and timely care.