Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation to become research hub for programme that supports young parents

Antonia Trevena-Jones and her baby son Regan

Antonia Trevena-Jones and her baby son Regan - Credit: Archant

A health centre in Camden is to become the national headquarters for a pioneering programme providing new mothers under the age of 20 with a family nurse throughout pregnancy and until their child is two.

The Family Nurse Partnership is available in 12 boroughs in London and the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust, along with two other health organisations, is soon to become a research and training centre for the scheme.

The partnership with the trust, at the Tavistock Centre in Belsize Lane, Swiss Cottage, is possible thanks to a £17million grant from the Department of Health.

Family nurses will help young mothers with the everyday struggles of raising a newborn – from breastfeeding, sleeping and weaning – and offer advice on health and education for both parents and their children.

The programme is not available in Camden but many support services for young parents are already available.

Tavistock and Portman is joined as headquarters for the national unit by the Impetus Trust in Euston and the Social Research Unit in Dartington

The hope is that with increased training and bigger headquarters, 16,000 of the most disadvantaged mums and dads from across the country will be offered tailored support by 2016.

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Research in America into one-to-one support programmes for young parents has demonstrated their success. Similar programmes have led to a 48 per cent reduction in cases of child abuse, a 56 per cent reduction in A&E attendances for children, and a 67 per cent reduction in the use of cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana, by children at the age of 12.

Studies have also shown that parents who take part in the programme are less like to have convictions by the time their child is 15.

Antonia Trevena-Jones, 18, who lives in Barnet, where the programme has been available for two years, sees a family nurse once a week with her nine-month-old son, Regan. She said she would not have been able to cope with his health problems if she was alone.

“I got lots of support with organising school and work,” she said. “When my little boy was born, we had the nurse come by more and she helped me with breastfeeding, and lowering the cot at the right time – all the milestones.

“I had no clue how to wean a baby. I was a bit of a worrier and a stress head but I’ve become more confident now.”

With the programme extended and the creation of a national training and research hub the hope is that more mothers like Miss Trevena-Jones will be reached.

The National Childbirth Trust (NCT), the largest charity for parents, has supported the programme.

Chief executive Belinda Phipps said: “The Family Nurse Partnership programme will play a pivotal role in improving continuity of care for new parents.

“Parents have different needs and it is easy for problems and worries to be missed.

“Having a specially trained family nurse will give vulnerable families the support they need during the first 1,000 days, giving children the best possible start in life.”