Overrun play group calls for more baby health clinics as demand soars
PUBLISHED: 06:55 25 January 2020 | UPDATED: 06:55 25 January 2020
A play group says demand has soared for its health clinics as parents in areas where services have been lost travel miles to be seen.
A Tea and Tots group in East Harling, which has been running in the village for more than 40 years and sees around 15 to 30 parents visit every week, has said its monthly health visiting clinics have been overrun as parents travel miles to use its services.
Roisin Shurmer, who runs the children's play group, said carers who don't have access to health visiting clinics have to use 'self-weigh' stations in libraries where there is no face-to-face advice or support.
At Tea and Tots' most recent visit from a health care professional, more than 20 babies were seen in two and a half hours, with parents travelling as far as Brandon.
Ms Shurmer said: "We are the only group which has this clinic for miles and the fact that people have been travelling from Thetford, Attleborough and Brandon is a testament to how much they are needed.
"What worries me is that they have shut the Sure Start Children Centres and the health care visitors aren't coming to clinics like this anymore because of budget cuts, but it's a vital service.
"It's important that parents have someone to talk to even if it's just about a rash on their babies arm or something more serious like post-natal depression, they are trained to look out for these signs."
She has now set up a petition in a bid to see more health visitor clinics set up.
Despite the concerns, Norfolk County Council's public health team has said it has no plans to cut the health visiting services.
John Fisher, cabinet member for children's services, said: "We are currently working on supporting more groups to set up in the Breckland area as well as working with existing groups and settings.
"Where possible we are offering support to families who need transport to get to groups."
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The county council commissions Cambridgeshire Community Services (CCS) NHS Trust to deliver the Norfolk Healthy Child Programme, which includes the community based Health Visiting service.
A spokesman from CCS added: "The self-weigh stations that have been implemented in local libraries were a response to service user feedback and have been created to offer parents more freedom and choice when weighing their babies.
"East Harling continues to offer clinics once a month as before and there are no plans to change this. They are held at an established baby group in the village."
Melissa Blades is a mother-of-two who has been attending the Tea and Tots group for the last 18 months. She said without the health visiting service many mothers across Norfolk would struggle.
Ms Blades said: "It's difficult for new mothers who haven't built up a mum network and seeing a health visitor might be the only thing to build their confidence and a chance for them to ask questions.
"There is nowhere else to take your child to get weighed. You can take them to a library but that's open to everyone to see your naked baby which I don't think is acceptable."
Jason Bailey is a full-time dad to his three-year-old twins, and he said he has been a regular user of the group's health care visitor clinic.
He said: "It has certainly helped me a couple of times. They check they are the right weight when they are younger, and they helped my other half when she had problems with breast feeding.
"Without it we would have a lot more parents with kids in doctors and waiting rooms, asking what's wrong with their child and whether they are getting the right help."