Who are health visitors?

Who are health visitors?

Health Visitors are nurses/midwives with additional training in public and community health.  We work as part of a wider health and multi-agency team and are often based in the communities we work with.  Every child up to the age of 5 has access to their health visiting team.

What do health visitors do?

We work with children and families to help them to be as healthy as possible. We do this by talking to you about your own and your baby’s/child’s physical health and emotional wellbeing.  If between us we feel that there are things we can change to improve health, we will work with you and support you to achieve this.

When will I see my health visitor?

Health Visitors follow the healthy child programme.  We use this as a framework for when we try and have contact with families.  Some families may have contact with their health visitor during their pregnancy.  All families are contacted by their health visitor on at least 2 occasions in the early weeks of having a new baby.  These are for the new birth contact and the 6-8 week contact.

What is a new birth contact?

This is usually carried out by a health visitor when your baby is 10-14 days old.  This will be a conversation with your health visitor and may include – your pregnancy and birth experience, your health postnatally, your family history, caring for your baby, what support you have around you, how you feel about your health and your social situation, what’s working well and are there any worries, challenges or difficulties?  It will also be a conversation about your baby’s health and wellbeing – how is your baby, what are they telling you about themselves so far?  Your health visitor will be able to tell you when your baby will be offered reviews of their health and development and about immunisation against some infectious diseases. Before the contact ends, your health visitor will explain to you when they will next have contact with you, how to contact them before that time if you need advice or support and when to seek advice or medical attention if you are worried about yourself or your baby.

What is a 6-8 week contact?

This is a contact with your health visitor when your baby is 6-8 weeks old.  It is a chance to re-cap on what was going well last time you spoke and how any worries, challenges or difficulties may have changed. There is a chance to think about you’re feeling emotionally and your health visitor will ask you some routine questions about your mood.  This is not something to be worried about because low mood and other emotional and mental health issues are relatively common in parents of new babies and we know that getting support early on can help to reduce the duration and severity of mental health concerns.

Your health visitor will also talk to you about your baby’s growth and development and will ask you questions about your baby’s development.  If you or your health visitor have any worries about your baby, they will make a care plan with you.  This might mean making an appointment with your GP or other health professional or noting a possible concern and reviewing it again later on.  Before the contact ends, your health visitor will explain when their next contact with you will be.

But what is happening at the moment during the COVID-19 pandemic?  Is there still a health visiting service?

There have had to be some changes to the way we work but we are still here and still delivering a service.  Your health visitor will still contact you for a new birth and 6-8 week contact, but these are likely to be done over the phone or video call instead of a face to face visit.  In some circumstances, your health visitor may be able to arrange to see you in a local clinic or at home.  In this case, health visitors are following public health England guidance on personal protective equipment (PPE) for any face to face contacts.  This means they are likely to be wearing at least a face mask, gloves and an apron.  We are keeping home visits to a minimum for the safety of everyone.

Useful Links

The Lullaby Trust – Safer Sleep advice

Barnardo’s – Baby’s emotional development

NHS UK Immunisation schedule 

ICON and CRY-SIS – Support for coping with crying and sleepless babies

Healthy Start website (includes vitamins and advice on applying for vouchers)

Baby and child safety advice: