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 placesnowhere 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.