Blackpool’s family nurses are leading the way in helping new young mums provide a better start for their babies.
The family nursing team, which is based at the Whitegate Drive medical centre, was launched in 2008 as one of only 10 pilot schemes in the country. It deals with women under 19 who are living in Blackpool and expecting their first baby.
The first meeting is before they are 16 weeks pregnant and, if the young mums-to-be agree to it, the nurses meet with them once a week for four weeks, then once a fortnight until the baby is born. The aim is to help prepare them for being mums and get them on the right track to provide for their children.
Once the baby is born, the nurses visit periodically until the baby is 21 months old.
Family nurse supervisor Diane Whatmough said: “There are 64 visits in total.
“We acknowledge it’s a big commitment compared to health visitors, who visit once while you’re pregnant and once when the baby’s born.
“The first visits are really to build up a relationship with the mums and their partners, and to talk about things they might not have talked about before, like what to expect during pregnancy as well as relationships, personal health, the maternal role, environmental health and life development.
“We promote attachment before the baby is born and encourage the partner to be very heavily involved.”
The scheme’s figures show that Blackpool has a higher number of new young mums taking part in the scheme than anywhere else in the country, and the resort’s team has been called to show others how they have been so successful.
It is also the only team to have won the Queen’s Nurse Award, acknowledging commitment and quality of service.
Lynne MacKinnon, also a family nurse supervisor, said: “We don’t have many women saying no when we approach them, which did surprise us at first because we’re asking them to basically spend two and a half years with us.
“More than any other service, we look at the strength within our clients and giving that back. Often no-one’s had that before.”
The family nurses programme came about following research in America that suggests by the time a child starts school their chance to build solid foundations in their brains has passed.
Lynne added: “We need to get in their early – the first two years of a child’s life is when brain development happens that we need to influence. Clinical trials showed that children who had taken part in this programme had improved mental health, child development and school readiness than those who didn’t.
“Their parents are also more self sufficient and able to support their family. The children go on to be better and school, better qualified and self sufficient themselves, and their own children will benefit from that,” said Lynne.