Nearly half of toddlers in St Helens 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 517 two-year-olds in St Helens, 252 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% did.
The figures also show that 31% of the children in St Helens did not receive their one-year review.
The six-to-eight-week assessment was missed in 49% of cases, and 39% 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% 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.
Lee Barnett, from the children's healthcare charity Tree of Hope, said that a lack of staff and coordination between teams and services meant health visits are being missed.
He said: "A focus on the child and their long-term needs is essential to developing health review processes, and there would be a cost-saving over the long-term."
Chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, Ian Hudspeth, said: “Health visitors working in local government play a pivotal role in helping ensure all children get the best possible start in life.
“In some areas, councils are having to make difficult decisions to ensure the most vulnerable and complex cases are getting the help they need, due to a shortage of qualified health visitors.
“The next government needs to commit to invest in councils’ public health services and deliver a comprehensive workforce plan for health visitors and school nurses.”