The health visitor's role should be strengthened to maximise the benefit for children and families, says an independent review.
Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, commissioned the Queens Nursing Institute to review the changing role of the health visitor in light of health needs and public expectations.
Having talked with thousands of health visitors and local leaders, the review recommends that health visitors should play two vital roles.
Firstly, health visitors should lead and deliver a renewed Child Health Promotion Progamme for all young children and families.
Secondly, they should provide intensive and early intervention and prevention for families who most need help.
The review states that by playing out these roles, health visitors will help the government to ensure families receive the care they need.
Ros Lowe, Chair of Queens Nursing Institute, said: "In carrying out this review I have listened carefully to the profession about what they feel health visitors should offer.
"It is not simply about more health visitors doing the same job they have always done but rather focusing their skills and expertise: in early intervention with children and families, and in tackling the 'difficult' issues in vulnerable families and communities within a public health context."
Peter Carter, General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said the report provides a "clear direction for the modernised health visiting service in the future."
"I think our roles have shifted over the last few years anyway. We no longer are expected to focus on the under 1yr-olds because we are now only supposed to see clients once for new birth visit and once after that sending mums then to clinics. How can we get to know families and assess their needs properly when we don't get to know them, postnatal depression goes undetected as does domestic violence because these can be hidden when mums are seen for a few minutes only in a clinic or they attend several different clinics. We are an ageing profession and new blood is always a good thing but by changeing our role we have already lost sight of it's original intention. In 10years time someone will have a bright idea and it will go full circle" - Elaine Pittam, health visitor, Rugby