More on Health Visitors

(205 Posts)
Bisonex Sat 29-Jan-11 20:00:57

Any day now I will be a grandfather for the first time - my daughter-in-law was due yesterday but no signs of labour yet.

I have noticed a dew discussions on here about health visitors. Having attended child abuse case conferences in a professional capacity I would advise anyone strongly against admitting a HV to their homes. My eldest daughter, now a doctor in paediatrics, shares my view on this.

HVs are far more concerned with carrying out surveillance on mothers and babies than giving any practical help or advice. They keep detailed records not just about the child, but they make assessments of the mother and father - their perceived competence as parents etc, the cleanliness of the home and anything else that catches their interest. If you try to see these records, they will obstruct you every step of the way. My son and D-i-L are clear that they will not be admitting the HV, or allowing her to see the baby - only the GP will be allowed to perform any checks.

I have seen suggestions that admitting HVs is compulsory. That's absolute nonsense - it isn't. A refusal to admit a HV will be noted - obviously - but that's all. Without plenty of other evidence, denied access would not be anywhere near enough to warrant interest from social services, let alone give them any powers. We had three children of our own and no HV ever crossed the threshold, nor were they allowed any access to our children. Once they realised we weren't going to change our minds, they left us lone.

Basically, if you let them in, they will open a file on you and it will contain a whole lot of stuff you will never see, yet which could be used against you should they ever wish to do so.

Bisonex Sat 29-Jan-11 21:08:35

reallytired

I have already given most of the information you asked for. Get some sleep and then come and discuss this with me again, when you are a bit more fresh. OK?

togarama

Ask your friends in paediatrics whether they would have a HV in their home after having a baby.

I really wouldn't have a problem with HVs if they were simply a resource to which expectant mothers who have little experience, or a mother of their own to advise them, but they have gone far beyond that.

Of course saving lives is important, but w don't achieve this by close surveillance of the population and maintaining secret files on people "just in case". That is intrusive and should only occur where there are causes for concern. Unfortunately, the surveillance is comprehensive and indiscriminate - and I find that unacceptable.

EditedforClarity Sat 29-Jan-11 21:11:02

Perhaps you'd like to come back when you can be a little less patronising.hmm

Bisonex Sat 29-Jan-11 21:12:42

reallytired has admitted she is "really tired" and not reading things properly. It is not patronising to tell her she should get some kip - it is common sense.

reallytired Sat 29-Jan-11 21:17:50

The thread has been fast moving. Clearly you are not used to mumsnet.

How does being a policeman make you an expert on health visitors? Surely you would not get to see the health visitor files unless you were involved in a court case. Surely the health visitor files are evidence for the family courts to consider.

A health visitor can not make the decision to take a child into care. She would refer the matter to social services.

"That is intrusive and should only occur where there are causes for concern."

How would you find out whether a child was a cause for concern. How would you have prevented baby P's death.

togarama Sat 29-Jan-11 21:19:03

I can't defend HVs because I've had so little contact with them and no reason to seek more.

However, having worked in government, I would be astonished if there was any professional public health network carrying out "comprehensive and indiscriminate" surveillance on the UK public.

There isn't the money, the IT systems don't work properly and the genuine caseload is too big.

If you and your daughter just don't like HVs, that's your own business.

If you have actual evidence to the contrary, I suggest you send it to Private Eye or a few local newspapers.

I'm bowing out now because I have a strong suspicion that this is a wind-up.

Bisonex Sat 29-Jan-11 21:30:00

reallytired

I'm not a policeman now, I am a university lecturer. I didn't say it made me an expert - I am speaking from several years of close involvement with health visitors in my job. I am aware that a HV can not take a child into care - that would require a referral to SS who would first have to seek an Emergency Protection Order. That's not my concern - my concern is the level of surveillance and the nature of the records kept on people who are ostensibly their "patients" but are more akin to the targets of police surveillance.

As for not seeing health visitor files - they are technically patient records and the law says you CAN see them, just as you are entitled to see your GP records. However, if you try to access these, a whole bunch of obstacles will be placed in your way (try it!). Why do you think that is?

You ask how you would find out about a child who was a cause for concern. In a tiny number of cases, you wouldn't. Yes, that could lead to a tragedy - but it's debatable whether a HV could have prevented that anyway as such parents already know they are under no obligation to co-operate with HVs and, rather than sending them away, they just decline to answer the door to them.

JanetPlanet Sat 29-Jan-11 21:32:58

I moved gps to get away from my HV. Only let him in once and then purposefully went out for his next visit so we didn't have to let him in. He told me that if I couldn't cope with the baby crying I should leave him in a safe place and leave the room 'because you don't want to end up another Louise Woodward do you'. He also said that he was my first port of call for any bf problems! As if! He speciffically told me thatgiven the baby P scandal he was there fundamentally for the protection of the baby and if he though anything was suspect or untoward he would report us immediately. I found the whole experience patronising and upsetting and I will be complaining about him.
He also told my husband how to read and talk to the baby. DH is a prof of developmental psychology, but HV hadn't bothered to find out anything about us. Worryingly he was training another HV at the time who had to sit through this too. Still bit upset by it now.

greenbeanie Sat 29-Jan-11 21:35:35

I am a HV, I have a degree in paediatric nursing and one in public health ( a total of 6 years training and 14 years experience). I wish I had the time to give the families on my caseload the care and attention that they deserve. We have no capacity to carry out "surveillance" and nor would we wish to.

I see my role as being there to support child and family in their journey from birth to pre-school. There are of course families that choose not to take this universal service up and that is always respected as their right. Most of our client contact is in clinic so not even in their homes where we can be "Big Brother". Of course we make and keep notes just as I am sure your paediatrician daughter does as it is a legal requirement, but they are not of the kind that you have implied.

It seems to me that you have obviously had a bad experience with regards to health visitors as a profession. As with all professions there are good and bad and I think it is a shame to tar us all with the same brush. However, fortunately it sounds from your posting that you will never have the need to have a health visitor visit your house so at least you are safe from our prying eyes.

JanetPlanet Sat 29-Jan-11 21:36:28

Can I also add that we live in a nice house, it was spotless at the time(because I felt hv would be inspecting) DH, ds and I were all presentable, happy and ds sat the whole time cooing at hv, yet we were treated like 16 year olds with drug and alcohol problems.

Bisonex Sat 29-Jan-11 21:39:18

Janet

You have my sympathy - but I can't say i am surprised. My advice on here is simply do not let HVs into your home - they are not there to be your friend or helper, they are there so that the government can say it has done what it can the next time a child dies through abuse or neglect.

I hope people will listen to you even if they think I am just a paranoid old fool.

TheCrackFox Sat 29-Jan-11 21:39:21

My HV was very nice just a little dippy; e.g. she asked me if I read books whilst sat in front of a massive bookcase hmm. I didn't bother after the 6 week check.

However, in Edinburgh where I live, I think they are now targeting HVs at families that might require their support more.

hastingsmum Sat 29-Jan-11 21:40:34

I understand where you are coming from with your post Bisonex, HVs do have to make notes on all families they see, it is, I believe, part of their job description nowadays, but I think it's a bit extreme to advise people not to let them into your home.

I personally find HVs generally useless and would not miss them one little bit but many people actually like having HVs coming round and do trust the advise they give.

TotalChaos Sat 29-Jan-11 21:42:37

Have had some bad experiences with hvs so i agree that in some instances, but not all, the OP unfortunately has a point.

Horton Sat 29-Jan-11 21:43:52

When my HV came round after DD's birth (the one and only time I have seen her), there was a punnet of mouldy apricots sitting on the table which I attempted to hide rather cack-handedly (I had meant to cook them but I'd been a bit busy giving birth etc). No repercussions have ensued. She wasn't much help but I am pretty sure she wasn't compiling some nutso dossier on me.

JanetPlanet Sat 29-Jan-11 21:48:35

I don't think you're a paranoid old fool Bisonex, My HV told me exactly what his agenda was- to see if anything untoward was going on, in which case he'd report us immediately. I found this really upsetting as a new mum, I felt I was doing a great job and he didn't seem to pick up on that at all. Will not be letting them over the door when dc2 arrives. The midwife's visits were supportive and useful and gp's are there if you need them. What's the point in Hv's other than to see if anything 'untiward' is going on?

greenbeanie Sat 29-Jan-11 21:49:20

Bisonex, I was interested by your comment, "they are there so that the government can say it has done what it can the next time a child dies through abuse or neglect." Surely if that was the case we would be visiting all families with children. What about Victoria Climbie and the many children like her who are school age children? As I am sure you are aware they do not come under our remit as health visitors.

Of course child protection is part of our role, but thankfully it is a tiny minority of families where this is an issue.

Bisonex Sat 29-Jan-11 21:50:10

greenbeanie

If a new mother gets a knock at the door, how is she to know whether the HV standing there is the kind you claim to be (and I'll take your word for it that you are), or the kind I have experienced?

It is interesting that you refer to people you see as "clients" rather than "patients". Why is that? In my experience, people who call the recipients of their services tend to be either lawyers or social workers, whereas those people who are there to care for the health of others refer to them as "patients".

Lastly, you say that "There are of course families that choose not to take this universal service up and that is always respected as their right". I recall receiving about six visits from a HV when our youngest was born in spite of contacting them before her birth and asking them not to visit. The first one who came said that it was a "statutory visit" and that the law "required her to come" - the implication being that she had some legal right of entry. Of course, I knew she had no such right and refused. We then got a snotty letter asking us to account for our "refusal to grant access", followed by a phone call from the head of health visiting. It came close to bullying and it was only when I told them that I knew my legal rights in this respect that they left us alone. Fortunately, I regularly played squash with my GP and he said he wold also contact them and tell them to lay off.

That's not a way to treat people who are, essentially, your patients and to whom you are supposed to be offering a service.

JanetPlanet Sat 29-Jan-11 21:50:21

Sorry for sp.

greenbeanie Sat 29-Jan-11 21:57:04

JanetPlanet, I am sorry to hear about the experience you have had. I decided to train as a health visitor after having my first child and having a bad experience with my own health visitor!

I trained with a genuine interest in supporting parents following the birth of their baby and that is what I aim to do. We are stretched and I have to say that on the whole I don't feel that we are able to offer the service that we would like because of lack of resources.

Our recommended caseload size per health visitor is 250 children, we have 1200. My role consists of providing breastfeeding support, training breastfeeding peer supporters, developmental reviews, postnatal depression support and cognitive behavioural therapy when appropriate, child protection, immunisations etc.

By the nature of our role the wellbeing of the child has to be paramount in the case of child protection but that is by no means the sole purpose of our role.

Bisonex Sat 29-Jan-11 21:59:03

Janet,

Thanks for that. So much for the claim that HVs are there to provide "emotional support"!

greenbeanie

I suspect that the provision of health visiting is not dissimilar to the provision of many other public services in the UK - i.e. what you get depends upon where you live - and so I am happy and relieved to take your word for it that you are there for the benefit of your patients rather than predominantly being there to police them.

I don't live in the UK any more and in my area new mothers get a note before they leave hospital which tells them to whom they can turn if they need any advice. Few take up this service, however, because they know they have mothers of their own who have been through the whole thing and can offer them whatever support they need.

greenbeanie Sat 29-Jan-11 22:01:21

Bisonex,I refer to the families that I work with as clients as I do not regard them as unwell or ill. I am there to offer support to families which is very much led by them so as to meet their needs, rather than to some agenda that I have.

OP you are just being daft and scaremongering!

My HV came to my house a grand total of twice when my DD was small! Once when she was born to discharge me from the MWs and give me her red book and the second time was her 8 month check. I used to get DD weighed at the community centre in the village and I could ask questions or talk about any concerns I had there! DD's 2 year check was done by the nursery nurse (who I know very well from going to the baby groups, which she runs).

I feel sorry for the flack that HVs get. Most of them are lovely and I have a few friends who wouldn't have got through their PND were it not for their HV!

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Sat 29-Jan-11 22:03:49

I reckon the OP has been reading too much Frank Furedi.

Society has to negotiate a balance between protecting the rights of parents to a private life and to preventing the neglect, abuse and death of vulnerable children. The UK - despite the horrid and high profile cases - has the fourth lowest child murder rate in the western world and has seen a 40% decline in child murder since the 1970s. This is partly thanks to increased support by health visitors and social services.

If I were a health visitor, a parent ringing me up and telling me they wanted no contact with the service prior to the child's birth - that would ring some alarm bells with me.

Bisonex Sat 29-Jan-11 22:07:00

greenbeanie

One does not have to be unwell or ill to be a "patient". If I go to see my optician or dentist for a check-up, I am referred to as a "patient", not a "client". To a midwife, an expctant mother is a patient rather than a client, and she is not "unwell or ill".

This may seem like a minor point, but I think it throws some light upon the way HVs perceive the people they are supposed to be caring for. If HVs are part of the National Health Service, working with GPs and other health professionals, then surely they should be viewing those they care for in the same way, rather than as recipients of legal services or as being in need of social services.

TondelayoSchwarzkopf Sat 29-Jan-11 22:07:18

Sorry I've picked up on the more extreme end of the spectrum - I was rather governed by the OP's paranoid scaremongering. My point is a little extreme but valid I feel.

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