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Mothers call for more health visits

Half of new mothers receive advice on breastfeeding and infant development from health visitor just once or twice in the first two months after giving birth, a survey has shown.

The poll of 6,000 mothers found that 46% of women experienced that level of support, despite 53% of those polled saying they did not live near to family and therefore did not have that added advice and reassurance.

The survey also found that 60% of mothers did not believe they had seen a health visitor often enough during the first year after birth.

Health visitors are specially trained nurses who offer advice and monitor the physical and mental health of both mother and baby.

According to website Netmums, which carried out the survey, those polled expressed widespread concerns over the "poor quality support" provided by health visitors.

Sarah Cowley, professor of community practice development at the Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, said: "There are proven links, for example, between mothers' mental health and children's behaviour, and between breastfeeding or early weaning and the likelihood of later obesity."

The website blames "under investment, a retiring population of health visitors and a breakdown of traditional support systems" for the perceived shortfall.

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Does this sound familiar? Are new mothers getting the support they need in your area? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

I have left health visiting because I am so frustrated at the poor service I am expected to deliver. HVs do not have enough autonomy to decide their practice priorities, nor enough influence on policy affecting health - one of our founding principles. We are being used to solve wider political and economic problems and not given the opportunity to work as the highly skilled prfessionals we are. It's a disgrace. I am sorry to leave but my mental health is suffering and I don't intend to return." - Name and address supplied

"Since the introduction of Hall, many health visiting services have been removed as we now have to concentrate on the more vulnerable children. If things had been left the way they were before Hall, health visitors would be in a much better position to serve the needs of families. We always gave extra support to the more needy families. Now with the onus being on the parents to bring any problems to us, it's no wonder parents feel they are not getting a satisfactory service. I'm all for change for the better, but not change for change sake." - Marie Garrity, NHS Glasgow and Clyde

"No, because we have core visiting imposed and constant upheaval called redesign. Clients rarely have a consistent health visitor to build up a relationship with, especially in the first year." - Liz Wilson, Liverpool

"With the community health nurse model that is now being piloted in Scotland, this service will diminish even more, contrary to what the managers say. We will be expected to be a school nurse, a district nurse and a health visitor all rolled into one?" - Audrey Galloway, Dunoon Argyll NHS Highland