We have launched an international early support programme to support families across Bristol and North Somerset.
Our Health Visitors have been delivering the Maternal Early Childhood Sustained Nurse Home-Visiting programme (MECSH) in South Gloucestershire since 2020.
We are now rolling it out across Bristol and North Somerset as part of our Public Health Nursing Transformation project which will ensure families living in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire (BNSSG) receive an equitable service.
The MECSH programme is delivered by Health Visitors who provide professional intensive support for families as their baby grows and develops. The same Health Visitor usually visits the family until their child is 2 years old and a timetable of support is agreed between them. The MECSH programme has been shown to help children’s health and development and improve the long-term outcomes for families.
Nikki Lawrence, Sirona’s Head of Public Health Nursing and the Children’s Community Continence Service, said: “We are thrilled to launch the MECSH programme in Bristol and North Somerset as it has been a huge success in South Gloucestershire.
“The programme will enable us to offer an equitable and accessible service across BNSSG and target resources to those who will most benefit from this tailor-made support.”
Representatives from the BNSSG Integrated Care Board (ICB), Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire local authorities and other system partners attended the launch event in Bristol to celebrate the rollout and highlight the success of the programme in South Gloucestershire.
Rosi Shepherd, Chief Nursing Officer at the ICB said: “The launch of the MECSH programme is a fantastic opportunity for our public health nurses to offer more intensive support to families who will most benefit from this across the whole of Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
“Rolling out this high-quality service across the whole area will support the delivery of our BNSSG strategy, which focuses on prevention and early intervention alongside reducing health inequalities, to improve the health and wellbeing of the population.”
Health Visitors have been trained by the national implementation team and are currently recruiting families onto the programme. Each full time Health Visitor will have up to 12 MECSH families on their caseload.
Christina Gray, Director for Public Health and Communities at Bristol City Council, added: “We are pleased that this programme has launched and look forward to discussing MECSH more in local multi-agency groups, with the aim of embedding it across our children and families offer, in particular, through our three new Family Hubs.”
South Gloucestershire Health Visitors shared case studies and feedback at the launch event, as well as a moving film from a MECSH client who described the positive impact the programme has had on her and her child.
One family who has been helped by the programme said: “The help and support I have received has been amazing. With no family close, and having really struggled at the beginning, I don’t think I could have done it without my health visitor.”
Another mum added: “I appreciate all the help and advice I am getting and if I am ever worried about anything I am reassured or given advice where I need it from my health visitor. She is an absolute asset, and I couldn’t be more grateful to have her.”
Families also praised the Health Visitors for tailoring the support to individuals. One parent said: “She is always on time and spends plenty of time with us. She shows genuine interest in myself and my daughter. She has helped us beyond words.”
Councillor Alison Evans, Cabinet Member Responsible for Public Health at South Gloucestershire Council, said: “I’m really pleased to see this programme expand to Bristol and North Somerset after its success in South Gloucestershire. This will support greater involvement and partnership working across the ‘children and family system’.
“Families enrolled on the MECSH programme have shared how valuable they have found the additional time and support from the Health Visiting team and have built trusting relationships with their Health Visitor. Parents also say that they feel more confident in understanding their babies and engaging and accessing with wider community support and groups.”
Nicky Stead, Children and Young People’s Public Health Manager at North Somerset Council added: “It was good to hear the programme is a universal offer and is flexible to meet the needs of individual families. Thank you for facilitating this event and we look forward to hearing how MESCH develops in North Somerset.”