Heath visitors are registered nurses or midwives who are specially trained to visit and support all families with pre-school aged children, offering advice and support to help you and your children stay healthy and safe.
Health visitors follow a schedule of home visits designed to give your child the healthiest start in life. They’ll start coming to see you when you’re pregnant and will stay in touch until your child starts school. They’re one of your first ports of call for any health issues you or your children may have.
What do health visitors do?
Health visitors support thousands of families across Scotland every week, helping them stay healthy and safe. Health visitors will monitor the health of your child and provide extra support when you need it most – as your baby, toddler or child is growing up and getting ready to start school. They can spot any issues that might arise early on and help you find solutions, and they can also connect you to other sources of support if you need them.
Here are some of the things they can help you with – although this isn’t everything! If you have any concerns at all about your child you can ask your health visitor for their advice.
- Coping with a premature or poorly baby
- Issues with sleep
- Feeding your baby or wee one
- Dealing with common childhood illnesses
- Oral health and toothbrushing
- Your child’s speech, language and communication
- Any other issues you or your partner may be having with parenting.
How often will I see the health visitor?
All families are offered a home visiting programme which consists of 11 home visits – 8 within the first year of life and 3 Child Health Reviews. The first reviews take place at the following stages:
- Ante natal at 32-34 weeks
- 11-14 days
- 2 between 3-5 weeks
- 6-8 weeks
- 3 months
- 4 months
- 8 months.
There are three planned health reviews. Your health visitor will come to your home, so you don’t have to worry about taking your wee one to a clinic or doctor’s surgery. If your health visitor feels your child needs any more reviews, they’ll discuss this with you.
The reviews take place when your child is:
- 13 to 15 months
- 27 to 30 months
- 4 to 5 years, before they start school.
Your health visitor will tell you when a review is due, and make an appointment to come and see you.
The aim of these reviews is to help and support you and your child as they grow up. During the review your health visitor will:
- review your child’s development, health and wellbeing
- answer any questions you have about your child’s development
- advise and support you for the next stage of parenting.
These reviews are separate from your child’s immunisations, which usually take place at your GP’s surgery or at a clinic. You’ll get a letter from NHS Scotland inviting you to take your child along for their vaccinations. The letter will tell you when and where the appointment is. You can find out more about immunisations here.
How do I get in touch with my health visitor outside of planned visits?
Your health visitor will give you their number and you and your partner can phone them whenever you need in between planned visits. It’s a good idea to save their number into your phone, and keep a note of it in your Red Book (see below).
Who should attend a health review?
Your health visitor is there for the whole family – and that means both parents or carers as well as your children. So if both parents can be there that’s great, but if you can’t manage this then either parent can attend.
What is the Red Book?
The Red Book is your wee one’s Personal Child Health Record. You’ll be given your Red Book when your baby’s born. Put it somewhere safe, as it’s a great way to keep track of your child’s health and development. Try to have it to hand with your health visitor comes round, and remember to take it with you when your child gets their vaccinations or goes to the doctor. It’s also a good idea to pack it when you go on holiday, as it’ll make life much easier if your child needs to see a doctor or has an accident while you’re away.
Here’s what’s inside the shiny red cover:
- Useful local contacts and other numbers you want to put in – you might want to save these into your phone as well, just in case.
- It’ll tell you when all the immunisations and regular reviews are due, and suggests things you might like to ask your health visitor at each review. You can also jot down any questions you have in the book.
- The book has information on various baby milestones, like when your baby is likely to start holding up their head or crawling.
- There’s also a chart that your health visitor and doctor fill in to shows how your baby is growing – it can even help you work out how tall your wee one might be as an adult!