AROUND 84 per cent of new born babies in the West Midlands did not receive health visitor checks within the first two weeks of their lives last year.
This comes from analysis carried out by children’s charity the NSPCC of data from the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) for last year.
The figures also showed there was a drop in the region from the previous year, which stood at 90 per cent.
It is vital that new birth visits are undertaken as soon as possible, as they help health visitors identify early safeguarding concerns such as neglect, ensure that the infant is growing up in a healthy and safe environment, and provide crucial support to new parents.
The NSPCC says research suggests that there is a national shortage of at least 5,000 health visitors in England with figures continuing to rise.
A 2023 report from the Institute of Health Visiting found that last year, only 37 per cent of health visitors felt they could provide a good or outstanding service to safeguard children and 14 per cent self-rated their service’s ability to safeguard children as inadequate.
As the healthcare system continues to be impacted by staff shortages and a lack of adequate funding, the NSPCC is calling on the Department of Health and Social Care to deliver on their promise and supply a refreshed Healthy Child Programme.
The programme sets the foundations for health and wellbeing in the early years and outlines the role of health visitors in achieving this.
Jack O’Neill, senior policy and public affairs officer at the NSPCC said: “It is vital that families receive that crucial first health visit as soon as possible after a child is born to ensure parents and the new baby are living in a safe and healthy environment.
“All families across the country should expect a consistency of care and not be subjected to a postcode lottery.
“With few touchpoints with other services, health visitors provide the only opportunity to engage with babies and new parents in their home environment in this critical period.
“But this important safety net is under immense, and growing, pressure.
“That’s why the NSPCC is calling on the Government to implement an updated and improved Healthy Child Programme alongside a robust NHS workforce plan which will help give health visitors the resources and tools they need to adequately support families right from the start of a child’s life.”