New parents missing out on health visits in North Somerset

Perinatal mental health problems affect up to one in five mothers and one in 10 dads. Picture: Tom H

Perinatal mental health problems affect up to one in five mothers and one in 10 dads. Picture: Tom Hull Photography - Credit: Archant

Parents in North Somerset are missing out on vital health visits for their babies, increasing the risk of mental health issues going undetected.

More than 12 per cent of new parents failed to turn up to visits with their health visitor once their baby had turned one.

Perinatal mental health problems affect up to one in five mothers and one in 10 dads, making it vitally important people attend appointments to catch any issues early on.

Matt Lenny, director of public health at North Somerset Council, said: "We know support for children and families in the early years is a great investment in health and wellbeing.

"Helping young children to be healthy, learn and develop provides rewards throughout their life.

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"We commit resources to services like health visiting, children's centres and working with the community to put good support in place.

"This covers a wide range of topics including speech and language development, promoting good mental health, breastfeeding, healthy weight and active play." Mental health problems for parents during the first year of their child's life can make it difficult for them to look after and bond with their baby, potentially affecting the child's overall development.

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The transfer of budgetary responsibility for health visiting services from the NHS to local authorities in 2015 coincided with a significant reduction in the public health budget and staff and a number of children's centres in North Somerset have reduced their hours.

More: Children's centre services and opening hours reduced in cost-cutting measures.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is calling on the Government to ensure all parents receive a minimum of five face-to-face visits from the same health visitor.

The NSPCC's Almudena Lara said: "Health visitors are uniquely well-placed to recognise early signs and symptoms of mental health difficulties, but with a decline in staff numbers and rising family caseloads they are working under significant pressure.

"It's vitally important that all families receive a minimum of five face-to-face visits undertaken by a consistent health visitor to ensure any mental health problems they might be experiencing are picked up on as early as possible so they can be signposted for more specialist support."

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