A new model for infant feeding support services in Kent has been given the go-ahead which will see NHS Health Visitors taking responsibility for the provision of services, working closely with maternity services, and ensuring that there is a greater flexibility and availability of professional, peer and specialist support.
The contract with interim providers PS Breastfeeding CIC (PSB) has come to an end and a multi-million-pound investment into Kent’s NHS Health Visiting service means it is now able to provide all elements of the Healthy Child Programme. It is now achieving 96% of new birth visits (seeing 17,298 women and their babies).
KCC’s Health Reform and Public Health Committee agreed the recommendation for a new model for infant feeding support last month and a final decision has now been made by the Cabinet Member for Strategic Commissioning and Public Health, Peter Oakford.
He said: “This provides opportunity for us to extend the reach of our service with more flexibility as the health visiting service is universal and available to every family with a child of pre-school age.
“We have recognised that the previous investment in breastfeeding was relatively small, and that only a small proportion of families eligible for support could access the service. As a result, the new model embeds breastfeeding support into Health Visiting, to offer the opportunity for support to all families with children under five-years-old across Kent.”
PSB, Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT) – which runs the NHS Health Visiting service – and Kent County Council (KCC) have agreed that there will be now be a transitional period. There will be no changes to the current arrangements for the Peer Support groups and Lactation clinics until 31st May 2018.
During this time PSB, KCHFT and KCC will work together to ensure that all aspects of the new service will be in place for 1st June 2018. This includes an agreed timetable for Breastfeeding drop-in groups and Specialist Lactation clinics.
Peter Oakford added: “We really want to develop and improve our partnership with those currently involved with the services for breastfeeding, and we absolutely recognise the vital contribution that peer supporters make to the service.
“KCC and KCHFT want to work with everyone during this period of transition to work collaboratively to provide a high quality service to our communities. We all have the shared aims of improving breastfeeding rates in Kent, and of making the experience as enjoyable as possible for breastfeeding mothers and their babies.”
KCC has listened carefully to all those who replied to the consultation and continues to meet with concerned service users. Key points include:
- The requirement for specialist support has not been cut and all peer supporters and specialists who wish to carry on will be welcomed. The service welcomes new peer supporters and will be launching a campaign to encourage more women to share their experiences.
- The health visiting service is committed to ensuring that all women have access to a lactation consultant when and where needed, and are training additional lactation consultants to achieve this. This will lead to a more flexible and readily available response.
- Health Visitors will provide 36 weekly breast feeding drop-in sessions to include breastfeeding support provided by a dedicated health visitor and supported by Breastfeeding Peer Supporters.
- 24 Specialist clinics spread across the county, staffed by Lactation Consultants.
- The flexibility to increase lactation consultant support where the need for additional capacity is identified. KCC has committed investment for this.
- Health visitors are nurses or midwives who have received further higher education in public health and are on the Nursing and Midwifery Council Register as Specialist Community Public Health Nurses. Lactation consultants with exactly the same qualifications as in the current model will continue to be employed. The continued professional development of trained health visitors to be accredited as lactation consultants will create further flexibility within the service to offer home visits, support for the health visiting team and telephone advice. There will also be accredited training for new breastfeeding peer supporters.
- The Health Visiting Services has received significant investment following national policy in 2011 to double the specialist workforce which is currently 247 qualified Health Visitors. This was in recognition that the service was hugely valuable to families. Performance and reach of the service has continuously improved over the last 2 years.
- The breastfeeding peer supporter role and the groups will continue with supervision from health visitors.
- The number of supporter roles is always dependent on the number of volunteers who provide their time, and this role will continue to be actively promoted. There will be continuation and development of the voluntary peer breastfeeding supporters.
- KCC is committed to increasing the number of women initiating and continuing to breastfeed. We have committed additional investment in developing local campaigns to promote and increase information on breast feeding.