NSPCC raises concerns about newborns missing health checks

·2-min read

One in five babies missed an important health and development check during the coronavirus pandemic, figures show.

The UK children’s charity, the NSPCC, raised concerns that 20% of babies in England in 2020-21  missed their health and development check when they were six to eight weeks of age.

And almost a quarter (24%) missed their one-year check.

The children’s charity said that even before the pandemic many families were missing out on the checks.

It said that in  2019-20, 15% of babies missed their six- to eight-week review and 16% of babies missed their 12-month review.

NSPCC said that dwindling numbers of health visitors contributed to the fall.

Vicky Nevin of the NSPCC, speaking after the release of official figures for the health visitor service delivery, said: “We know that the first 1,001 days from pregnancy to age two is a crucial stage for healthy child development.

“All families in England are entitled to at least five health visiting checks. But even before the pandemic, many checks were being missed and health visiting workforce numbers have seen a drastic decline since 2015.”

She added: “Many new parents experiencing mental health problems can find it difficult to seek help. Without consistent home visits across the country, there is a risk that significant needs will be missed.”

Ms Nevin said that  public health funding was needed to train and recruit 3,000 health visitors over three years.

New parents are offered regular health visitor checks for their baby until they are two years old. It is a chance for the adults to get  support, talk about any concerns they may have and to ensure their child’s development is on track.

A thorough physical examination – including checks on a child’s eyes, heart, hips, their weight and size of their head circumference – can be expected at the review, which is due by the time the baby is six to eight weeks old.

Vaccinations for the baby are discussed and it is also a chance to find out how the parent has been coping since the birth.

Language and learning, safety, diet and behaviour are some of the things that may be looked at in a check-up that is due when the baby is nine to 12 months old.

The reviews are usually done by a health visitor or a member of their team. They may be done in the home of the new parent, at a GP surgery, baby clinic or children’s centre.

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