NEARLY half of toddlers in Southampton are not receiving mandatory check-ups from health visitors, new figures suggest.

Local authority health visitors, who assess a child’s development, are supposed to carry out four checks during a child’s early years: straight after birth, at six-to-eight weeks, at one year and then between two and two-and-a-half years.

This support is vital in establishing young children’s good health and development, Public Health England says.

Out of 768 two-year-olds in Southampton, 376 did not see a health visitor between April and June 2019, the latest data from the Department of Health and Social Care shows – meaning just 51 per cent did.

The figures also show that 82 per cent of the children in Southampton did not receive their one-year review.

The six-to-eight-week assessment was missed in 23 per cent of cases, and 15 per cent of newborns did not have a health visit within 14 days of their birth.

Across England, almost a quarter of children did not receive their two to two-and-a-half-year review.

The lowest attendance rate was in Central Bedfordshire, where only 5 per cent of two-year-olds had a health check-up. At the other end of the scale, almost all of the toddlers in Middlesbrough had their visit.

Simon Letts said: "The figures are disappointing if people are not taking their children along when they are invited. However, they are disturbing if they have not been offered check-ups in the first place. We need more investment in primary care. That is where the main NHS crisis is. We have an issue in the Itchen side of Southampton with a shortage of GPs."

A spokesperson for Southampton City Council and Solent NHS Trust said: "All families in Southampton are offered the health visiting service and will have their health needs assessed either during pregnancy or very shortly after the birth of their first baby. They will then be offered either a universal or a targeted programme.

"This is to ensure that families get the right level of support that matches their level of need and at the right time.

Southampton has over the past two years worked in collaboration with Portsmouth to design the Enhanced Child Health Visiting Offer (ECHO), to give identified families more visits and time than a service that just focusses on delivering the five mandated contacts. This programme is for those likely to need (or who have asked for) additional help to meet additional challenges they may face in meeting the needs of their children according to a range of economic, social, health, wellbeing or other factors. This approach enables Southampton health visitors to focus resources on those children and families that have greater need for the specialist knowledge and skills that health visitors bring in assessing how infants and young children are progressing, and advice on ways to support them in thriving, developing and being ready for school and success into adulthood.

Families will still have access to the universal Healthy Child Programme through a wide range of other support including drop in health visiting clinics Children’s Centres, Families Matter support and community based services through Southampton’s Integrated 0-19 Prevention and Early Help Service. Southampton is also rapidly transforming their universal offer and now have a choice of innovative options for families, including a health visitor duty system and text messaging service with daily prompt response for advice, information and queries, health drop in workshops, Choose and Book for health reviews and access to a wide range of media/website material."