A new film has been made with the intention of “shining a spotlight” on the vital role played by health visitors.
The short film, called Health visiting in your community, has been launched today by the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) with the support of senior nurses from across the UK.
“So often we hear that the work of health visitors is not widely understood”
The iHV said the film showcased the breadth of health visitors’ work and their critical role in supporting the health and wellbeing of “thousands and thousands” of families every week.
As health visitors often worked alone, or in small teams in families’ homes, their work was often hidden and it was easy to overlook how important it was, according to the iHV.
The film is designed to capture the voices and stories of parents with a wide variety of different needs, speaking about the difference that the health visitor’s care and support made to their family.
The iHV noted that widening health inequalities and the cost-of-living crisis pushing families into poverty meant health visitors were needed “now, more than ever, to meet the scale of rising need”.
The film was created, it said, to appeal to parents, health and social care practitioners, government policymakers and commissioners, and to strengthen the case for health visiting.
The 7.5-minute film was shot on location in multiple sites across the UK and “captures just a small fraction of ‘real life’ for families”, said the iHV.
It follows health visitors in their working day, visiting babies, young children and families in their own homes and community settings to deliver a diverse range of care and support.
Alison Morton, iHV executive director, said: “So often we hear that the work of health visitors is not widely understood.
“While it is impossible to capture the full breadth of the health visitor’s role in just a few minutes, I am delighted that we have been able to shine a light on some of this incredible work in our film.
“There are some powerful scenes in the film which captures glimpses of ‘real life’ and parents tell their own stories of the unforgettable difference that their health visitor made,” she said.
Commenting on the project, Professor Mark Radford, chief nurse for Health Education England, described the video as a “wonderful collection of stories from our fantastic health visitors”.
“It is heart-warming to hear from the nurses playing such an important role in the health and development of babies and children,” he said.
Alex McMahon, chief nursing officer for Scotland, said there had been significant investment in the number of health visitors in Scotland and that the number had increased by 500 by the end of 2018.
In response to the video, he also said that a universal health visiting pathway had been in place for every family in Scotland since January 2020.
“The trusting relationships that health visitors form with families start pre-birth and last until school,” noted Mr McMahon.
“Health visitors offer that vital health and social wellbeing support for all families from early pregnancy and through early childhood.”
Meanwhile, Sue Tranka, chief nursing officer for Wales, said: “I am delighted to support the launch of this inspirational new film which describes the important work of health visitors and their teams.
“The service is key to the delivery of the Healthy Child Wales programme, a universal offer of health contacts for all children in the early years to ultimately ensure they have the best start in life.”
But Claire O’Meara, head of UK policy and advocacy at the UK Committee for UNICEF, warned that health visiting services were “worryingly over-stretched”, leading many to miss out on critical support.
She called on the UK government to commit to a ‘national baby and toddler guarantee’ to “ensure every child has access the support they need to give them the best start in life”.