• 06Feb

    When did Health Visitors stop visiting?

    Fresh from writing about access to maternity services….

    My twins turned two at the back-end of last year and ever since then I have been waiting by the door in a state of heightened excitement for my ‘two-year check up’ appointment from the Health Visitor. Y’know, those people who visit you and monitor your kids’ weight and height and answer the burning questions that you can’t find out yourself through Dr Google.

    I stopped going to mine when the twins were about one. It wasn’t that I didn’t find them nice people, or that I didn’t occasionally need some advice, but they changed something basic: they stopped visiting. Instead they moved the service to a Children’s Centre, where you get the pleasure of sitting in a large room several feet from the parent in front, who tries desperately not to swear as they undress their screaming baby in front of an audience, and get to ask all their daft questions in front of their peers. Maybe they think we like the opportunity to socialise; like it makes up for all the cancelled Children’s Centre services that they can’t afford to run anymore.

    Then there are the logistics, whether in a health clinic or a children’s centre. They tend to run a drop-in clinics (and yes, we are unreliable with little ones, fair point), but that can also lead to lengthy waits. Hard enough with one baby; add an older sibling or a twin and you’re basically looking at a half hour of potential hell in a waiting room. If there’s one thing I know about babies bowel movements, they wait until *just* the right moment…

    But the main reason I don’t attend is that like many places nowhere else I can even think of, they don’t allow buggies in the building. For the first year I lugged my twins on my own, who by the end were, with carseats, nearly 50lbs spread over two ergonomically-offensive carrying contraptions. Bad enough I carried them in like that after a c-section, but once they reached solids and whacked on the weight I could barely walk six feet without thinking I was going to get a hernia. When they left the stage ’0′ carseats I said blow it and took them in their Easywalker buggy and went inside. It wouldn’t fit through the doors as the child safety guards on the hinges narrows them below (former) DDA width. So I stopped going. There was literally no way to take them both in. Even now they are walking I can’t supervise one and undress another in front of people without unleashing tantrum Armageddon. It’s hard enough keeping them occupied for two minutes at home!

    Then I needed to see them again so I called and asked for an appointment at home as it was more than a quick chat in front of the local crowd. The woman on the phone said no, their scales didn’t travel. I tried again the next month and was told no, they were too busy. This week I got my gold-embossed VIP invitation to attend the two-year check – at the Children’s Centre I can’t get into. Even if I could get in I can’t sensibly supervise them and have a conversation about them for the ninety minutes it takes – even in a consulting room. Twins, examination tables and yellow sharps boxes don’t really mix all that well.

    Finally, on my third attempt, I have now convinced them to visit me at home. In fact there seems to be a new lady on the line and she has a common sense attitude. But I don’t think parents of multiples, or who have any other specific need, should have to jump through hoops to get a ‘visit’ from a Health Visitor. Presumably it’s more efficient to run it this way. The staff spend less time driving from home to home and can get on with talking to people. Talking that is, to the ones that are willing to talk with an audience, can get in the room, and haven’t already been put off the whole silly affair.

    Is it just my area that does this? Is it just having twins that makes accessing basic services so much harder? Does anyone actually see health visitors anymore anyway? Answers on a postcard. Or in the comments box beneath!

    UPDATE: happy to report that I have finally managed to speak to my local HV who was angry to hear parents were refused visits and suspects that a shortage of admin staff and sick cover may have lead to the ‘no visits’ message being incorrectly passed out last year. Someone is on the case as this is NOT officially the policy in my area. Very concerned that it has occurred though and that it continues to elsewhere.

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Discussion 11 Responses

  1. February 7, 2013 at 12:06 am

    Things may have changed since mine were born but…
    When I had Monkey, the HV visited a couple of times, then she disappeared off the face of the earth. I could take them to clinic which I hated and their first check was at GP surgery, done by a doc! Second check was at the health centre they were based out of, largely because there is no space at GP surgery.

    I found out that my allocated HV had been seconded to another team. She never came back.

    HV no2 came to see me just before Missy Woo arrived (which is only a year after Monkey was born). She visited quite a lot at first, because Missy Woo hadn’t regained her birth weight. Then I had to see her at clinic – I barely took them both and after all the weight traumas, bought some baby scales and weighed her at home.

    Two year check for Monkey and 9 month check for Missy were done at the same time but again, we had to go to the health centre (which is in a remote village about 4 miles away, it would be impossible to get there if you don’t have a car). We didn’t see them again until 2 year check (by which time HV2 had gone elsewhere) and the last contact I had was when they “reviewed” Missy 3 months later because she was walking “a bit stiff” – she had been walking for 2 months by then. This was actually a phone call at which they asked me if I had any concerns and I said no.

    Did I gain anything positive from my contact with HV? No. Negative? You betcha – stress, hassle and having to protect my children from their expectations. I’m sure there are some great ones out there but I don’t think they get the chance to be that as it seems to be a box ticking game. I understand the need for checks but honestly, they would be better off to consider the whole child, instead of panicking the second they deviate from some prescribed norm.

  2. February 7, 2013 at 5:56 am

    Either you, and many other parents are unlucky, or I am very, very lucky. My twins are 3&4 for us. Our hv came to us at 2 weeks for my singletons, then I went to clinic at the gp surgery. With the twins, our hv had changed but she came to us, with her scales, until I felt I could get to clinic myself. Our surgery allows pushchairs for all. Ok so it can be a bit of a squash at times, but we all manage and there are no complaints. The hv and surgery staff are only too willing to lend a hand if needed. I can even get a home visit! With scales! If we get particularly stuck or wish to speak in more depth about a matter. It does seem that speaking to my friends and family though, that we are very much in the minority. And I think it’s a shame. Not just for parents of multiples but for all parents who perhaps wish to access this service but are unable to for quite practical reasons.

  3. February 7, 2013 at 6:49 am

    We gave up after year one. They turned up at our door to check on us at 18 months and then lectured us about vaccines (for each child fully vaccinated the surgery gets £150 so we’d lost them £300). They didn’t see my other friends who hadn’t been since their 6month check. Strange system. Clinics are a nightmare with one let alone multiples. Turn up to be bossed around and patronised no thanks. But then I am a healthcare professional so any concerns I have I have experts at my finger tips.

  4. February 7, 2013 at 8:32 am

    it seems i am not alone either! When i had my daughter 12 years ago i could travel every week to the clinic for a weigh in. The clinic was so accommodating and couldn’t help enough.

    This time round in a new area its a joke. up to the age of 1 we could only visit the weigh in clinic once every eight weeks! and if we needed some advice we were told on the phone to wait for our next visit.

    Same principle as yours one at the front and on show to all peers. I haven’t been since Joshua was 10 months and i too am waiting for the golden ticket of appointments to come through as he is coming up for 2.

  5. February 7, 2013 at 9:34 am

    Like I said on Twitter, our HV isn’t very practical for anyone with a baby – let alone those of us with twins – as the clinic is upstairs at my GP’s surgery.

    But I have to say that I’m not too fussed about rushing back there as I feel they’ve been overly worried about Imogen’s weight, which has fluctuated between the 2nd and 9th centiles since birth (her birth weight was on the second) and the HV wasn’t overly thrilled when I said I was going to do BLW (even though she is back on the 9th centile and doing absolutely fine in every other aspect) and wanted me to get them weighed again the week before I started weaning and then the week after. Which seemed pretty ridiculous to me.

    I think it’s very easy when you first have a baby to see them as the Oracle, but actually most of what they advise is just their opinion and/or based on outdated ideas.

  6. February 7, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I’d love to say what isolated experiences you have had, except that would be a big fat lie. It’s almost a checklist! I did manage to wangle home visits until the boys 1 yr check (just before 10 months because “I don’t think I can get away with visiting you at home any longer”) from the children’s nurse on the team, not the HV proper! I obviously seem inept because another twin mum with twins a week younger than mine living a few roads away was expected to go to the Children’s Centre from 6 weeks! No buggies allowed in the Children’s Centre, ours is also now locked with buzzer entry, due to thefts from the buggies left in the lobby. Baby clinic is also upstairs at the (recently refurbished and extended!) GPs, and although everyone is very helpful and willing, sometimes it would be good not to make a logistical production out of an appointment!

    Having said all that, I found the level of care we were offered with the twins was a lot better that we were offered with our singletons, we’re in a different Trust here, and the area is deprived…

    I worry about those mums and kids who need the safety net that I thought Hv’s were meant to be. Five minutes in a busy, hot, overcrowded Children’s Centre versus a 15 minute visit in the home? Then again, what could we possibly gain from throwing good money after the next generation of Cameron’s skivers and scroungers? no room for the long view, no profit to be made here, move along, move along.

  7. February 7, 2013 at 3:33 pm

    Health visitors still visit here! In our old area they did more than just the basic checks, they even made sure you knew they wouldcome andvisit ifyou asked them. That was a sure start area mind and my info is six months old.
    Where we are now they visit- in fact I kept missing them dropping by to visit for the first 4 months!
    I agree about baby clinics being horrible and impractical. So much so, that I haven’t ever taken my youngest daughter to one- too difficult with two and a waste of time to be honest as I know she’s growing fine.

  8. February 7, 2013 at 7:25 pm

    Oh God, I could have wrote every single word of this! You don’t have the same HV team as me do you?

    Honestly, I could go on for ever. Our twins are our 3rd and 4th and I count my lucky stars that we didn’t have them first time round, or now that the government cuts have really started to bite. The difference between the treatment I got with number1 8 years ago, and the treatment I’ve had over the last two years with the twins is unbelievable.

    Our GP surgery is awesome, but the HV team are at our Childrens’ Centre and we’re not allowed buggies in either. My allocated HV (when I see her) said she would come to me as much as possible because of the twin thing, but any time I get an appointment and call to say I need a home visit, it’s “not possible”. I once got to the Childrens Centre and walked straight back out again because of the no prams rule – I wasn’t about to leave a brand new double buggy outside in the rain or for anyone to steal while I juggled two newborns and a changing bag. The receptionist needed prompting before she even thought to help me with the door.

    I could go on and on, but just wanted to say I think the current HV practices sound like it’s a nationwide thing and it’s a big crock of shite. I’m with you, oh grand Mafia leader!

  9. February 7, 2013 at 9:37 pm

    Oooh this subject makes me sooo angry, well done for raising it. I can’t make this short as I have so much I want to say about all of it. Firstly, you are very lucky to have had a HV come visit you at home in the past. They came to my house just after the births and from then on I was on my own. I have to walk about 30 mins to the nearest children’s centre (as they closed the clinic in town which was very accessible), and like yours you can’t take buggys in. WTF!!! A children’s centre is supposed to welcome and support families. When my boys were born I filled out a comment form that said their stupid rule was basically going to stop people with multiples from going along to any activities there. They just told me that their staff could help me carry the babies but they weren’t willing to change their rules. I never went back again. Until I had E and now I have to occasionally make the journey and leave my buggy outside. Grrrr.

    What annoys me the most is that some twin buggies cost £1k – who on earth would want to leave one of those outside next to the car park without any security?! Not to mention the nightmare of carrying two or more babies and your bag, and then trying to figure out where to put them while you’re getting each one weighed. It’s especially difficult when they can toddle around as the buggy becomes an important safety restraint.

    Back to the HVs, the one who came to see me after E arrived in Sept told me to call them if I was struggling to get in to clinic. In the end I did as my boys and me ended up with bad chest infections and E had bronchiolitis and I couldn’t drag all three such a long way and keep the boys under control while I had her weighed. I rang in and the head HV was really rude to me and said they don’t do home visits. Eventually she agreed they would come out this once, and someone would call me the next day. I never heard from them again. I was disgusted. A mum with three kids under three calls to ask for help and they basically ignored me. What if I was suffering with PND and really needed help?!

    As for you being invited to your two year check…they stopped them altogether here because they didn’t have enough HVs!! I got a letter saying they should be able to say xx no of words and if not I could phone them and that was it! But for my boys’ one yr check when I received the letter asking me to go to the buggy-free children’s centre for it, I rang them back and said I wanted it somewhere I could take my buggy and we did it at a health clinic instead, so maybe speak to them to see what alternatives they can offer.

    I feel like we need to start up some campaigns and get the whole of the twin mum mafia involved! Service improvements for multiples sounds like it should be first on the list. Any ideas for slogans?! xx

  10. February 7, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    Oooh, sorry I meant to add – I have a draft in word format of a book with a working title of ‘how to make your business more family friendly’ from the point of view of someone with children including twins. I shall be in touch for quotes!!

  11. February 8, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Ours are nearly 3 & we had regular visits from (excellent) health visitors for about their 1st 6 months. They were a bit premature & had a reflux problems so that may have been a factor. After that we went in, for vaccinations & weigh-ins. We didn’t have any problems doing that; it was a good doctor’s surgery. When we moved to Wales last year we had another visit, & we’re due another 1 when they turn 3.

    PS: I’d be honoured to be the first Twin Dad in your Twins Mafia :)

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