image shows two women , one holding a baby and the other looking towards the baby
image shows two women , one holding a baby and the other looking towards the baby

Families ask for improved health visitor communication

Norfolk families say they would like improved contact at particular times, and better communication from the health visitor service.

The findings emerged in a report analysing people’s views of the support and help from the service published by Healthwatch Norfolk.

The organisation, which gathers the views of people in the county on health and social care issues, decided to look into the service in more detail after hearing some concerns while out in the community about the support being given during children’s early years, which was particularly acute during the Covid-19 pandemic.

It created a survey which was handed out to every library in Norfolk and to community groups, as well as distributed digitally.

The Healthwatch Norfolk team also visited libraries across the county to gather the views of families face-to-face and got almost 300 responses.

Key findings

  • Parents and carers with babies under six months old were more likely to have used the health visitor service in the past year and were more likely to have received a home visit in the past year than those with older children.
  • A total of 97% of those with babies under six months old had received a new birth appointment and 93% told us they had received a home visit. These families were also more likely to tell us that they felt completely supported by the health visitor service.
  • People said they would like more regular support from the service, particularly between the six-to-eight- week review and the one-year review.
  • The majority of those who responded (93 per cent) said they would prefer home visits as they felt questionnaires were impersonal, and digital appointments could be challenging because of issues around internet connections.
  • Checking the development of a baby was the most useful support given by the service, according to 91 per cent of the people who had responded.
  • People who said they had positive experiences with the service said they felt supported and reassured, listened to, and their questions were answered. They also found it particularly beneficial when they felt their health visitor was knowledgeable and tailored advice to their circumstances.


Based on the findings, Healthwatch Norfolk made several recommendations around communication, home visits and resourcing.

These have been passed to Cambridgeshire Community Services (CCS) NHS Trust which provides the service through its Norfolk and Waveney Children and Young People’s Health Services, and Norfolk County Council which commissions it.

The recommendations are:

  • Norfolk & Waveney Children & Young People’s Health Services to clearly communicate with service users about the options available for receiving health visitor services. If a home visit is an option, they should know that they have this choice.
  • Home visits for new-born children and the six-to-eight-week checks need to continue as they are seen as an important service.
  • Norfolk & Waveney Children & Young People’s Health Services to consider more regular contact with families through regular text messages or phone calls. This would remind them of the services available and ensure they can ask any questions or raise concerns. Families can choose whether to have this service.
  • Norfolk & Waveney Children & Young People’s Health Services to consider attending baby and toddler groups or offer drop-in sessions in places like libraries or community centres to increase health visitor availability and allow families to ask for advice or give reassurance.
  • If families are being communicated with via questionnaire, Norfolk & Waveney Children & Young People’s Health Services must clearly communicate the purpose of it, encourage its return, and ensure that families receive follow up communication or support after it is completed and returned.
  • Norfolk County Council and Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust to further explore the current resourcing of the health visitor service, including staffing levels and funding in this area.


Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, said: “Face-to-face feedback played a big part in this project as our team went out to the county’s network of libraries to talk to parents and carers as well as reaching out to various family and community groups and working digitally too.

“We got a wide range of responses with a lot linked to greater contact. Parents felt they needed more reassurance of the services and support that are available, and the results of this study will help Norfolk County Council build and enhance the services it offers.”

Sian Larrington, Head of Service, Norfolk and Waveney Children and Young People’s Health Services, said: “We welcome the feedback families have given as part of this Healthwatch project.

“It was great to hear how helpful families found their visits and hear the excellent feedback they have given their health visitors. We were particularly pleased to hear that parents and carers felt supported, reassured, and listened to, and that the health visitors were knowledgeable and tailoring advice to their individual needs.

“We recognise that the virtual appointments during the pandemic worked less well for some families, and we have returned to face-to-face visits for our appointments (also known as mandated contacts or reviews) between pregnancy and the child’s review at a year old. In addition to these contacts many families continue to contact the health visiting team every day for advice and support through our Just One Number service

“We also valued the parents and carers feedback on how we communicate with them, and we have already started to make changes to how we communicate the services available. We will continue working on this to ensure we are shaping our services around their needs.”

Download the full report here