Local authorities rated GPs as the “most isolated” from other early years services by a “considerable distance”, while maternity services, perinatal and parental mental health services were rated among the “least well integrated” with other early years services.
One new mother told researchers: “GPs need access to health visitor information so they both give the same advice, as sometimes they say the opposite.”
The report said: “Among the parents to whom we spoke, GPs were often seen as the most recognised service but also sometimes the least connected to broader forms of support.
“Those parents who were recent migrants to London especially valued GPs as their first and only obvious entry point to services and support.
“Yet often, since the pandemic, they were perceived to be difficult to contact, and sometimes parents remarked that their advice did not always feel aligned with that of health visitors and maternity services.”
It found a similar situation with maternity services, with “little if no information-sharing” between midwifery hospital services and health visiting services.
“A vulnerable mother recounted how this had led to her details being lost when she moved soon after birth, and as a result she received no health visitor visits,” the paper said.
A “significant part of the frustration” was attributed to discrepancies between the local authority and commissioning health agencies’ geographical footprints and “a sense that they were not always responsive to the specific needs within the community”.
It’s seperation like this that can be damaging to children under the age of five, the report said.
However, researchers did find between a quarter and a third of local authorities in London are working to create better integration and support for families.
Among a raft of recommendations, the report urged local leaders to use family hubs to improve information sharing and create common standards across London for early years support.
On a national level, the paper recommended the government “build on existing positive initiatives by rolling out support for family hubs to more areas, and ensuring that all hubs include a very explicit plan”.
“Joined-up early years services have the potential to transform lives at an important stage of child development, but this report shows that there is still fragmentation in the system,” said Councillor Ian Edwards.
He added: “More could be done at a local level to assist better join up of local early years services.”