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If your child was born in the NHS then you will have at some point been assigned a health visitor. A health visitor is a registered nurse or midwife who have been trained further to become specialist community public health nurses.
They are there to provide support, especially for first time mums and dads but can provide support for children up to the age of 5. They follow a set guideline and best practice for consistent care but how it is delivered can vary from one to another.
Useful to those in need
They specialise in working with families with a child aged 0 to five to identify health needs as early as possible and improve health and wellbeing by promoting health, preventing ill health and reducing inequalities.NHS Health Careers
For many parents, a health visitor can be instrumental to a good start in life for parent and child and for others they may seem like interfering and a little nosy, especially when you have your second, third and beyond baby (they do keep coming!).
It is strongly advised to accept the other of support from your health visitor, but important to remember that it is optional and not mandatory.
That aside, this article is specifically about the house checks. They are called health visitors and they do indeed try to come and visit your house.
Will a health visitor come to your house?
A health visitor’s role is to ensure you and your baby are supported and as informed as possible, the drawback to this is that they test this against a specific set of guidelines and checkboxes provided by the NHS. This includes ensuring the baby is being raised in a safe environment (your house).
A health visitor helps you by invitation only and a part of the NHS pledge to offer free health care at the point of delivery.
They will routinely offer their services without being approached (they are duty bound to help after all) and assume it will be accepted in the same way it was accepted during pregnancy and labour.
This all means that they will continue to offer their services once you are all home, it does not end at the birth. It will be assumed they can come and visit, but it is not actually mandatory and they have no powers to enforce it.
Here is a quote from AIMS which sums this up.
Although health visitors have no legal right of entry, they do not make a habit of pointing this out to clientsAIMS
What this means is that instead of saying “Would you like us to come and visit you?”, they may say “is the 14th OK for a visit?”.
This is not done maliciously or with any ill-intent, they simply assume that new mothers would want to make use of the free support the NHS and local councils provide. This extends past NHS buildings and into your own home.
So this gets us to the first stage of the health visitor house check. They can only come into the property on invite only but in our experience they will most certainly try and make sure they visit. They are duty bound to parents and children across the country.
But, a note – it is in your interest to have these visits, especially with your first baby. They have a wealth of experience and can point you in the right direction if you’re struggling – every health visitor will either be a qualified nurse or a midwife.
The health visitor’s main objective is going through the checklist and seeing how your coping, they will ask about
- Feeding – both the breast or bottle
- Sleeping arrangements
- General hygiene
- Domestic violence
- Mental health check – are you coping?
- Your physical health – are you healing?
- General baby development
Will a health visitor check your house?
They might if you let them! The honest answer is they may or may not suggest one. Ours didn’t for neither the first or the second, however we gave them no reason to want to check and from what we’ve gathered from various mums it is not common to be asked – we had clearly done our homework on all sorts of parenting decisions and the baby’s development was great.
The question should change to “Will my health visitor ask to check the house”.
Some health visitors may suggest that they do a house check. Remember the quote we gave earlier, they are there by invitation and they have no powers to insist on a house check.
This is a choice (to suggest) made by individual health visitors their reasons for doing so will be their own – they are not obligated to ask but they are taught that they have a duty to check if they feel there may be a problem.
The likely candidates to be asked are very young parents, a parent who lives on their own, parents who are visibly struggling, parents with history of domestic violence, parents who have history with social services, parents living in dubious dwellings, parents who live in or near properties which are high crime areas.
To summarise, a health visitor will only check your house with permission. They may ask, to which you can decline, or they may not ask at all if they have no reason to.
Why would a health visitor want to check the house?
The most common reasons for a health visitor to want to check your house is because it is on their list of duties to try and complete or they have a reason to believe it may be an unsafe environment.
It’s as simple as that. If they can successfully complete a house check then your file with them will be more complete. From their perspective it also means that they cover themselves if something happened to the child or parent that a house check would have spotted.
That said, once they have been given permission to do a house check (they have to get this) these are primary things they look for:
- Sleeping arrangements – they would be keen to see where and how the baby sleeps
- Safety – they would want to see that the house is clear of potential dangers in the house
- Other occupiers – they may be interested to see who else lives in the house
- Signs of violence
At the end of the day, they just want to make sure that the baby is being raised and cared for in a suitable house. Many parents do find even the mere suggestion of this to be rude but if you put yourself in their shoes then it can make the request a lot less uncomfortable.
If a health visitor has to ask 10,000 times to check a house and on a single occasion they spot a problem which saved just one child’s life then it is worth it.
Can I say no to a house check
You can actually say no to them coming to your house at all. But, please make sure this is an informed decision – health visitors number one concern is for you and your child and not simply to be ‘nosey’. If you’re struggling their advice and experience can really help.
That being said, if you are fine with a visit but don’t want the house check you can decline.
However, if they are declined a house check but they have clear reasons to be concerned they MAY notify Social Services who DO have more powers.