Health visitors are registered nurses who have undergone further specialist training.

They have special responsibility for all children under five and will give new parents a Personal Child Health Record book for their child. Each child has a named health visitor. This health visitor is responsible for carrying out the child’s developmental checks. These currently take place at six weeks, six to nine months and pre-school. They include hearing and vision screening, as well as noting the development of speech and language.

At school age, responsibility passes to the school nurse, although health visitors can continue to visit and offer support until a child is 18 years of age if they have special needs.

Health visitors:

  • visit all homes where there are children under five
  • help parents learn to care for their children
  • carry out health and developmental checks at regular intervals
  • identify and refer children where special needs are suspected
  • provide support for parents
  • counsel parents
  • act as a friend, helping parents to understand what is going on when a child has special needs, explaining all stages of the process and what education and health services can do
  • liaise with social workers, nursery staff, etc., where a child has special needs
  • build up a relationship with a family from when a child is ten days old, thus often being the first to notice when something is wrong, either through neglect or abuse or because of special needs.