Happy Birthday! Celebrating 150 years of health visiting

Monday 14 May 2012

Health visitor with family

Health visitors and nurses will be celebrating 150 years of health visiting this week, as part of Nurses' Day at the Trust.

The health visiting and nursing teams are holding special events on Tuesday 15 May between 11am and 1pm in Central Hall at St Thomas’, to help patients and public find out more about their work caring for people in south London.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ employs 100 health visitors - specially trained nurses and midwives - to look after the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities in Lambeth and Southwark. The majority of health visitors work with families with children under five. Last year our health visitors provided more than 173,000 contacts with parents and carers in the two boroughs.

Barbara Hills, General Manager for Children’s Community Services said: “Health visitors are in greater demand than at any other time in their history. I’m proud to work with such a dedicated and professional team of nurses who provide health, well being and parenting advice to local families. It’s wonderful to celebrate the amazing work that they do.”

Irene Addo, a nurse manager, manages a team of 17 health visitors, including a breast feeding counsellor, covering Peckham and Camberwell. She has been a health visitor for 23 years.

The team helps families with young children to access health and welfare services to enable children to reach their potential, ranging from information and support on developmental milestones; behaviour; local activities for young people; and how to access benefits advice.

Irene says: “It can take a while to build the trust of parents, especially those who need extra support.

“When we visit a client it is important to remember that we are a guest in their home. Health visitors need to be able to communicate to parents on their level, and must also be respectful and non-judgemental, especially about cultural differences.

“Our role is to help clients to build up their confidence and take control of their lives, asking for advice when they need it.”

“I’m still passionate about health visiting. We don’t just work with mum and dad, but aunties, uncles and grandparents too. Health visiting really does make a difference to the lives of the whole family.”

Health visiting was first recorded in the 1850s when the Manchester and Salford Ladies Sanitary Reform Association was formed to give practical help to families living in slums, which helped reduce the number of childhood deaths. At that time more than one in four children died before their first birthday.

Last updated: May 2012

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