'My son has never seen a health visitor' - Pandemic parents battle

Marina Dickings and son Henry

Marina Dickings with her son Henry who was born a few days before the national coronavirus lockdown in March 2020 - Henry has never seen a health visitor in person - Credit: Penny Morgan Photography

New parents have been reassured that health visitors in the county are carrying out face-to-face appointments as one first time mum from Ipswich told how she had to fill out her son's red health record book herself.

This comes in the wake of a national report published earlier this month by Home-Start UK, the Parent-Infant Foundation and best beginnings. 

The report revealed that  in some areas 30% of health-visitor drop in clinics are no longer operating and  28% of people surveyed say health visitor appointments are still remote in their part of the UK. 

Baby groups were also covered in the report - 12% of parents surveyed said groups were no longer running in their area. 

Henry 20 months old from Ipswich

Henry, who is now 20 months old and lives in Ipswich has never seen a health visitor - Credit: Marina Dickings

My son has never seen a health visitor

Marina Dickings, 40, from Ipswich, returned home from hospital with her newborn son the day before the country went into the first full national lockdown. 

She said: "My son was born on March 20, 2020 and has never seen a health visitor. 

Most Read

"The first contact we had was at six months over WhatsApp and his one year check happened when he was 18 months and was done remotely. I have weighed him and followed his red book myself." 

Marina said that earlier this year her health visitor team switched to one based in Bury St Edmunds who acknowledged "it hasn't been great for us".

Henry

Henry had is one year check with health visitors done remotely when he was 18 months old - Credit: Marina Dickings

In defence of the health visiting teams Mrs Dickings said: "In those first few days they were guided to do do everything to protect babies and I get that totally. 

"I just don't know why it was still remote when my son was 18 months old." 

Our health visitor was a lifeline

Amy Baker, 32, another first time mum, who lives in a west Suffolk village, said she had much more face to face contact with her health visitor compared to many of her friends in other parts of Suffolk.

Mrs Baker said: "Our health visitor was quite a lifeline for us. She had recently come off maternity leave herself and I think she was really pushing hard to come and visit in the house, when a lot of her peers were doing it on the phone. 

"My experience was that my health visitor would come to my house. I found that really good as I had quite a traumatic birth so I was struggling with confidence and anxiety and I felt I was able to open up to her."

Mrs Baker, whose daughter was born in January 2021 during lockdown, said: "I remember I text her (the health visitor) at 7pm in the evening and she was on the telephone by 8pm and we were talking it through. 

"She took the worry really, really seriously and obviously that was out of hours."

Mums and their toddlers are thrilled to be back at their Jo Jingles class in Kesgrave

First time mum Amy Baker said - baby groups are important as when you are a first time mum "you really seek support" - stock image of Jo Jingles baby group in Kesgrave - Credit: Archant

Following her struggles with anxiety after the birth of her daughter, Mrs Baker has now become an ambassador for Get Me Out The Four Walls Suffolk (GMOTFW) - a maternal mental health charity based in East Anglia. 

Speaking about the importance of baby groups Mrs Baker said: "My daughter was my first baby and it has been tricky because she was a lockdown baby. 

"Again we were quite lucky really as a parent and toddler group opened up in our village when my daughter was three or four months old. It was good timing.

"When it is your first baby you really seek support."

Mrs Baker will be hosting two GMOTFW meet ups at the Freedom Cafe in Great Barton on Thursday, December 2, and Thursday December 16 at 10.30am.

The meet ups, which will offer mums the chance to have a chat and share their experiences. 

More information about the meet ups can be found on the Get Me Out The Four Walls Suffolk Facebook page. 

Health visiting is occurring face to face across Suffolk

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said: "Health visiting is occurring face to face across Suffolk in the vast majority of cases and when it is not, this has been assessed as appropriate for the activity and the circumstance by the health visitor concerned. 

"All new babies and their family are being seen face to face by a health visitor following hand over by the midwife."

She added: "Across the county, groups and individual contact sessions are being provided virtually and face to face in Family Hubs and outreach venues according to local need.

"Parents are now also able to use Chathealth to text a Health Visitor for advice or to arrange face to face contact."

Home Start Suffolk 

Tara Spence, Chief executive of Home- Start in Suffolk. Picture: Sarah Lucy Brown

Tara Spence, Chief executive of Home-Start in Suffolk - Credit: Archant

Tara Spence, CEO of Home-Start in Suffolk, said: "Becoming a parent is a big change in itself, but since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, new parents and their babies have also faced these changes without having what would be considered the normal social interactions, leaving them feeling very isolated.

"Having worked with families for nearly 30 years, Home-Start in Suffolk know that parents have been hugely affected by the pandemic.

"Increased referrals for isolation and emotional wellbeing have been at the core of why we have responded to the needs or parents, particularly those who have had a baby in lockdown."

She added: "Walk & Talk buggy walk groups were created in partnership with our local Children Centres, giving parents the opportunity to meet outdoors during the summer months and socialise face to face.

"These groups are now moving to indoor settings and all our groups have been adapted to suit the restrictions as they change to ensure our team of staff and volunteers are providing that vital support to the families in the safest way possible to help reduce the impact of the pandemic.

"We are extremely proud of the Suffolk community and all that they have done to support others, and we couldn’t be prouder of our amazing volunteers that support so many families across our county."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter