Family nurse partnership boosts outcomes for vulnerable

The family nurse partnership (FNP) programme is improving outcomes for vulnerable families by helping young mothers improve their babies’ health and involving more fathers in their children’s early years.

That was the message today from an evaluation report on the second year of 10 pilots of the FNP programme, under which specialist nurses provide intensive support to young first-time parents in deprived areas from early pregnancy to a child’s second birthday.

Positive effects

Findings from the report, commissioned jointly by the Department for Children, Schools and Families and the Department of Health, indicate that the £36m programme is having a number of positive effects.

Smoking rates reduced from 40% to 32% among mothers from early pregnancy to 36 weeks gestation, though there were substantial differences between areas, while 63% of mothers started breastfeeding and over a third of them were still breastfeeding at six weeks. This is high in comparison with the national average for mothers in socio-economically disadvantaged areas.

Involvement of fathers

Nurses have reported that the young mothers they work with were more confident as parents and fathers’ involvement was high, with over half of fathers present for at least one pregnancy visit.

Health minister Ann Keen said: “I welcome this report, which shows that the family nurse partnership programme is continuing to be delivered well and is having a real impact on some of the most vulnerable babies and families in our society.

Opportunity to prevent exclusion

“It gives us a real opportunity to prevent some of our most vulnerable children facing a lifetime of exclusion and failure.”

The FNP programme was first developed in the USA where it was proven to have lasting health benefits and wider impacts. The government currently has 40 sites up and running and aims to have 70 pilot programmes in place by April 2011, with a view to rolling it out nationally over the next 10 years.

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