A day with a Sheffield health visitor: Guiding hand through life’s early days

Mum Lisa Oldale, dad Paul Siddall and baby Charlie Grace
Mum Lisa Oldale, dad Paul Siddall and baby Charlie Grace
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PROUD mum Lisa Oldale carefully undressed her beautiful baby girl and passed her to the health visitor.

Charlie Grace, just 10 days old, stared up at the ceiling of her parents’ Woodhouse home, waving her tiny fists in the air as the NHS worker, Julia Glossop, placed her tenderly on the scales.

The healthy tot, who weighed an impressive 9lbs 10oz when she was born at the Jessop Wing, decided she did not like having her naked body scrutinised, and let out an almighty wail.

“She’s absolutely fine,” said Julia. “She’s doing well.”

Julia is one of 134 health visitors working for Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, supporting families with young babies and children across the city.

“We are the main point of contact between the family and the NHS for those first few years,” she told The Star.

“Our focus is on the whole family, getting those health messages across early, making a difference to the kids.”

Families receive visits before birth, at around two weeks old, then six weeks, one year and two years.

Parents can request more visits if they need help, and Julia and her team hold weekly clinics at Woodthorpe, Woodhouse and Athelstan children’s centres.

“Each contact is an opportunity to see how the family is doing,” she said.

“There’s a perception that all we do is weigh babies. But as the mum undresses the baby we watch her interaction, look to see if she feels fed up, how the baby is looking, how the baby’s muscle tone is looking. Is the baby reaching out? Is it rolling over?

“It comes across as chit chat but all that time we are assessing the developmental milestones.”

Lisa, a 33-year-old hairdresser and also mum to Olivia, 11 and Evie, seven, takes her baby back off the scales and passes her to dad Paul Siddall, 39.

“I’m completely outnumbered now, four girls in the house,” said Paul, a carpet fitter, beaming with pride.

Julia runs through advice about diet, feeding, bathing and sleeping patterns, checking Charlie has everything she needs, and makes sure Paul and Lisa know how to register her birth and get all her immunisations.

Then it is on to the next visit, a young couple on the Badger estate.

Julia has been visiting Gareth Thompson and his partner Elizabeth, both 21, for nearly two years, supporting their children Kaytlin, two and Jacob, one.

In this case Julia’s role extends far beyond health matters. Last year she helped the couple move out of damp and dangerous housing, getting them reassigned to a far safer home.

On the morning we visit, Julia brings a pack of books for Kaytlin and a new safety mug and toothbrush for Jacob.

Gareth said: “The health visitor service has been really good for us. It was a bad year for us last year and everything that could be done to help us, Julia did.”

Elizabeth has recently hurt her back and Gareth is struggling to keep on top of the cleaning.

Julia pulls him up on the mess: “You’d better tidy up those glasses or you’ll be visiting the Children’s Hospital.”

She made an appointment to visit again and said her goodbyes.

“Sometimes there are issues that clearly need to be raised and there isn’t a nice way of saying it,” she said later. “That is one of the big challenges.”

But despite the difficulties Julia would not change her job.

“I love the diversity,” she said. “It’s different every day. People sometimes just need someone to tell them that they are doing OK.

“When you know the advice you have given has been taken on board, that’s really rewarding.”