Kate's story

I have worked for the NHS for 10 years, previous to my current role I was a Family Support Worker in a Southend Children Centre and then worked for 3 years on the Neonatal unit at Southend Hospital. Both of these roles have given me invaluable experience and training that led me to my current role as a Health Visitor Assistant.

The Southend Health Visiting team cover a large area, from Shoeburyness to Leigh and Eastwood and we work in four teams - East, East Central, West Central and West.

The Health Visiting team are based at Southend Civic Centre and we also work out of the local Children Centres. One team is based at Friars Children Centre.

A day in the life...

On the 17th March 2020 I arrived at the Civic Centre around 8.00am for what I thought would be a normal day at work. From that day we have been home-based working. It was very quickly established what home visits were the priority and what work could be completed over the phone from home to keep ourselves and our families safe from the spread of Covid-19. 

Lots has changed since working from home but the basics and fundamentals are still the same. I still start my day with a cup of coffee (which I now always have to make myself instead of a morning catch up around the kettle). The first job of the day is to get logged on to the laptop and the multiple systems that we use to access our information, and I check my emails and tasks. Task are our internal secure ‘post it’ notes and how we share information and receive our work load. Amongst these tasks can be new development checks to be completed, telephone messages that have been taken for me and Health Visitors requesting support for their families.

Pre Covid-19 I would have been racing out of the office at around 9.00 to start my home visits for the day. I am now completing under 1 year and 2 ½ year development checks over the phone. These phone calls last around 45 minutes and consist of a catch up with the parents about their child, how they are eating, sleeping and behaving, health checks such as immunisation status, teeth brushing and any hearing or vision concerns. We would then discuss the child’s development using a questionnaire called ‘Ages and Stages’. This is a series of questions/activities that are age appropriate to the individual child that can help us determine if a child’s development is where is should be. As children all develop at different rates, it is very common that we may review this development with the parents at a follow up appointment. We also have access to other services who we can refer a child onto, if further support is required, such as Speech and Language, Physiotherapists, Audiology, Eye clinic, Asthma and Allergy Team or the Lighthouse Centre. I would also complete any support work over the phone to families if required for issues such as sleep, toilet training, behaviour or eating. This can be a follow up from their routine check or if a parent has called in with a concern.

Before the Covid-19 lockdown the Health Visiting Team would run Child Health Clinics from Children Centres over Southend throughout the week, where parents could bring any child under 5 years to be seen by the team, for weight and measurement checks or to seek advice. Due to these clinics being drop in sessions and the numbers attending were unpredictable, these clinic were stopped for a period of time due to Covid-19. We now have clinics up and running again but now in a new format. When I complete a child’s development check over the phone they are then invited into a booked time slot at a clinic for their measurements and physical checks to be completed. Babies and children are also seen in these clinics if the parent calls in with any concerns.

The remainder of my day is spent working on any admin tasks. This can involve liaising with early year’s settings, childminders and schools. I will quite often wish to speak with the setting a child attends if I am working with the family, to give any kind of support to ensure this is consistent when the child is in their care. I will follow up appointments a child has had with other services, such as Speech and Language or the Play and Parenting team. I would complete any referrals required from the day and also inform any Health Visitor if I have been working with a family they are also supporting.

Group support is available

Twice a month I was running a group called Mini Marvels. This is a group for any parent who has had a baby on the Neonatal unit. This group would give parents the opportunity to chat with other people who have lived the same experience as them and they would be able to support each other through difficult stages. Myself and a colleague who works on the Neonatal unit would also be available to give any advice or support required and parents could also have their baby weighed at this group. Having a premature baby weighed can be a daunting experience for parents, as their baby is usually smaller or not growing in the same way as a full term baby. Having a familiar, understanding face available to do this allows them to put their mind at ease. We are all there for each parent to support those small milestones which are huge to a baby who has had such a difficult start. This group is currently still not meeting face to face but we are hoping to set up something virtual for parents to attend.

The Southend Health Visiting Team is available to support families who have a child under the age of 5 years. We give all different levels of support depending on what is needed. The Health Visitor Assistants work in the team to complete a large proportion of the development checks and to see those families in the Child Health Clinics. If families need any support from us they can get in contact with the team for this to be arranged. There is also lots of information on Southend Borough Councils website under Health Visitors.