Kirklees’ largest provider of NHS services in the community has been accused of failing mothers at risk of postnatal depression.
The Examiner has learned that Locala is allowing specialist nurses who assess new mums at their homes to conduct their appointments by telephone instead.
Mothers are at particular risk of postnatal depression (PND) three to four months after giving birth.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the official healthcare advisor, recommends that face-to-face appointments are carried out by qualified health visitors because many of the signs of PND are visual.
But according to a document leaked to the Examiner, health visitors have been told the appointment conducted two to four months after birth ‘can be completed as a telephone contact’.
A source said the policy was dangerous and was letting mums down.
The source, who did not want to be identified, said: “Up until very recently health visitors routinely visited mothers when the baby was around three to four months as this is a critical period to assess for the common and sometimes serious illness.
The source added: “Quality, safety and care has gone out of the window.
“We are fearful that something serious will be missed.
“It is impossible to safely do this over the phone, it is not appropriate and goes against NICE.”
Locala can assess the mental health of new mums when their baby is six to eight weeks old, often when they attend a baby clinic.
But this can leave a gap of up to two-and-a-half months before the mother is next assessed – possibly over the phone.
A Locala spokesperson said: “The assessment of a family’s need is an ongoing assessment, from before birth, with health visitors and other delegated professionals working in an integrated way, to deliver the Healthy Child Programme.
“Any risk factors or additional needs of a family are identified following a robust health needs assessment, which is ongoing.
“The delivery of care is dependent on the identified needs of the child and family with the input from different professionals.
“All our community nursery nurses within Locala are competent in assessing the health and wellbeing of all our children and families in our care and this includes maternal health.”