A not-for-profit health firm has begun charging new mums for baby health services.
Locala CIC, a social enterprise tasked by Huddersfield health chiefs with delivering community health care across Kirklees, has launched extra workshops to boost mums’ weaning skills.
The company still delivers a basic weaning service as part of its NHS commitments.
Locala has also admitted it is charging fees for other enhanced services that are not part of its NHS contract, including baby massage sessions and school nursing services such as toilet training and head lice treatment.
Locala said it was free to develop services outside the NHS, as long as they continued to provide core NHS community health care services which are free at the point of delivery.
A spokesperson for the Batley based firm, said: “Locala continues to provide free services to families in Kirklees as commissioned under The Healthy Child Programme by NHS England.
“The Programme begins with pregnancy and extends to the first five years of life.
“NHS England monitors very closely our provision of these services which all families receive free of charge.”
The spokesperson said the enhanced weaning workshops were £6 a session while £30 buys five baby massage sessions.
A recent workshop was held at Huddersfield’s Mothercare in the Great Northern Retail Park.
The spokesperson added: “Research by Locala’s nursery nurses - part of the health visiting teams - with existing and expectant parents showed that there was an interest in other paid for services. Using their knowledge and experience the team has developed and are piloting Locala ‘Making a Difference’ community based early year’s children’s health and wellbeing packages. The first two are Baby Massage and Weaning.
“These sessions have been extremely well received and other subjects are in the pipeline.”
Terry Cunliffe, regional organiser for Unite, which represents many of the health visitors, said he suspected a two-tier service was emerging.
He said: “Unite would want to see this fully funded by NHS without the requirement for companies such as Locala to go out and try to earn extra money.
“I hope we are not getting a situation where you get a faster or better service if you are able to pay for it.
“Members want to offer these services to all mums.”
The Locala spokesperson added: “The trade union Unite is well aware and supportive nationally of the nursery nurse ‘Making a Difference’ programme of work; how it came about and how it is delivered.
“The union encouraged the team to enter the Community Nursing Health Visitor Association (CPHVA) national awards.
“The CPHVA is part of Unite. The Locala team just missed winning their category, making it through to the final three, of which they are very proud.”
Locala has also confirmed it has begun charging for some school nursing services.
A spokesperson said: “Kirklees Council commissions Locala to provide free core school nursing services to all state schools in the area.
“These services include monitoring the physical, mental and emotional health of pupils, support with behavioural issues and difficulties arising from starting or changing schools.
“Schools have been asking for additional services to those classed as core so after carrying out further research we have extended the services we offer.
“Schools are allowed to commission such services to meet the needs of their pupils.
“Our comprehensive chargeable packages are paid for by the schools – not the families. These include ‘Readiness for School’ (£280), headlice (£60) and toilet training (£60).
“Locala also provides extended sessions covering areas such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, sexual exploitation, emotional wellbeing and self-harm.
“Our packages designed for teachers and teaching assistants include working with our speech and language therapists on how to support pupils with speech and language programmes in school.
“All these paid for school services are provided through additional hours and do not impact on the funded services.”
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