I share the concerns of Cheryll Adams that spreading health visitors too thinly across families will lead to missing mental health problems, especially “for new mothers” (Overstretched health visitors caring for up to 2,400 families each, 4 October). When the last Labour government supported our group Regenerating Health Visiting, training and supporting an adequate workforce were central to our plans. I was delighted in 2010 when the coalition agreement included a commitment to training more health visitors, so it is discouraging to see this workforce shrivel in 2020.
Mental health, such as post-natal depression, is helped by home visits from a specialist community public health nurse. Visits during the preschool years are also invaluable in identifying children with disabilities, which means help can be mobilised early and parents navigated through the complex systems for various special needs. My own research suggested that very few children with disabilities (including autism or intellectual disabilities) are picked up before school entry, unless a health visitor is following their development.
Retired professor of public health, Duxford, Cambridgeshire