NICE guidance backs universal health visiting service

Unions have welcomed NICE guidance that underlines the importance of maintaining the universal health visiting service.

Guidance issued last week on ‘Improving the nutrition of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children in low-income households' says ‘it is important that universal services (for example, home visiting by health visitors and midwives) are available for all families with infants and young children'.

The guidance says all mothers, parents and carers of infants and pre-school children should receive home visits, and backs intensive support where appropriate.

Experts have expressed fears that the universal service could be scrapped in favour of a more targeted approach if the government continued to increase its focus on Nurse Family Partnership pilots.

Unite/CPHVA professional officer Dave Munday said: ‘The crisis facing health visiting in terms of staff cuts and frozen posts is now very high on the political agenda. This is as clear an endorsement as you can get about the need for a universal, not a patchwork, health visiting service, which can give vital support to mothers and children in those vital early stages of development. The need for more trained health visitors is paramount.'

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