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What do health visitors do?

The role of the health visitor is incredibly varied and you will find yourself working with a range of different people and in a range of settings. 

Leading and delivering child and family health services (pregnancy through to 5 years)

Having a child comes easily to some parents, where for others, the adjustments  can be difficult. Health visitors work with all parents to assess the support they need and develop appropriate programmes to help give the child the best possible start in life.

Health visitors support and educate families from pregnancy through to a child's fifth birthday. Common tasks include:

  • offering parenting support and advice on family health and minor illnesses
  • new birth visits which include advice on feeding, weaning and dental health
  • physical and developmental checks
  • providing families with specific support on subjects such as post natal depression.

Health visitor also work closely with other professionals such as nursery nurses and Sure Start children's centre workers and retain the overview of the health and well-being of children and families in your area. You will also provide leadership to the child services team.

Providing ongoing additional services for vulnerable children and families

Being skilled at identifying vulnerable families means health visitors can enable parents to express their needs and decide on the support they receive. The type of support can include:

  • referring families to specialists, such as speech and language therapists
  • arranging access to support groups, such as those provided by Sure Start children's centres
  • organising practical support - for example working with a nursery nurse on the importance of play.
Contributing to multidisciplinary services in safeguarding and protecting children

Health visitors are trained in recognising the risk factors, triggers of concern, and signs of abuse and neglect in children. They also know what needs to be done to protect them.

Often, they are the first to recognise whether the risk of harm to a child has increased to a point where actions needs to be taken to protect them. They'll also maintain contact with families while formal safeguarding arrangements are in place, ensuring families receive the best possible support during this time.

As they are involved in every stage of the child protection process, including serious case reviews, they are sometimes called upon to appear in court to explain the action taken.

Providing additional services through or in partnership with Sure Start children's centres

Health visitors are also involved in delivering a wide range of health services in the children's centre, including:

  • establishing effective partnerships between the children's centre, local GPs, the primary healthcare team and maternity services
  • coordinating health campaigns
  • offering education and training for children's centre staff.

Where do health visitors work?

Health visitors see parents and families in a variety of settings, including:

  • their homes
  • clinics
  • GP surgeries
  • Sure Start children's centres.

They also spend a lot of time working with other agencies and healthcare professionals who share a common commitment to children's development. These include:

  • GPs
  • allied health professionals
  • voluntary agencies.