Last year Karen Ross, AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist, was involved in developing guidance for health visitors supporting the wellbeing of military families. Here, she investigates how they are working with Service communities…
A group of health visitors in Bedfordshire, including Army wife Emma, wanted to build relationships with the Service population and break down any barriers by finding out what their needs were.
They chose their local military base to run a “building community capacity” project – aimed at getting to know the Forces families.
“This was done by arranging one-to-one appointments for families that preferred private discussions,” explained Emma. “We also offered a two hour drop-in session so all the military community could voice their ideas and needs.”
One mum added: “The drop-in session was invaluable because I had the opportunity to discuss my experiences and make suggestions.”
There were a few hurdles for the health visitors to overcome too. Emma’s colleague Arlette had never had any contact with the military before.
Arlette explained: “When I was offered the position of covering the base it was quite a daunting prospect. At first, signing in at the guardroom was a nerve-racking experience and learning the ‘lingo’ was like learning a whole new language.” Something I’m sure we can all relate to!
Arlette’s experience highlights the importance of military awareness and this is something the health visiting team would like to improve upon through training and study days.
Their future plan is to regularly drop in to playgroups on camp and to attend families’ days, so that they’re visible and approachable to those people living there.
The team’s work on developing the project was acknowledged when they received a highly recommended award in improved patient experience within their NHS Trust.
“We’re proud of our success and we’re happy with the continued positive relationship with our Service community,” added Emma.
Health visitor services vary across the UK. Depending on where you live, you should be automatically referred to your health visitor when your newborn is around ten days old. If you’re new to an area and require support from your health visitor, speak to your GP.
AFF has contributed to Public Health England’s guidance to health visitors, highlighting the unique experiences and challenges you face as a Service family.