Quality statement 3: Healthy Start scheme

Quality statement

Pregnant women and the parents and carers of children under 4 years who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme are given information and support to apply.

Rationale

Pregnant women and the parents and carers of children under 4 years who are eligible for the Healthy Start scheme can apply to receive coupons for vitamin supplements and food vouchers. It aims to improve health and access to a healthy diet for families on low incomes across the UK.

Quality measures

Structure

Evidence of local arrangements to ensure that pregnant women and the parents and carers of children under 4 years who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme receive information and support to apply.

Data source: Local data collection.

Process

a) Proportion of pregnant women who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme receive information and support to apply when they attend their antenatal booking appointment.

Numerator – the number in the denominator who receive advice and support to apply.

Denominator – the number of pregnant women who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme attending their antenatal booking appointment.

Data source: Local data collection.

b) Proportion of 6–8 week health visitor appointments where parents and carers who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme receive information and support to apply.

Numerator – the number in the denominator where advice and support to apply is given.

Denominator – the number of 6–8 week health visitor appointments where parents and carers may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme.

Data source: Local data collection.

c) Proportion of 8–12 month developmental reviews where parents and carers who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme receive information and support to apply.

Numerator – the number in the denominator where advice and support to apply is given.

Denominator – the number of 8–12 month developmental reviews where parents and carers may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme.

Data source: Local data collection.

d) Proportion of 2‑ to 2‑and‑a‑half‑year health reviews where parents and carers who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme receive information and support to apply.

Numerator – the number in the denominator where advice and support to apply is given.

Denominator – the number of 2‑ to 2‑and‑a‑half‑year health reviews where parents and carers may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme.

Data source: Local data collection.

e) Proportion of vaccination appointments at age 3 years 5 months to 4 years where parents and carers who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme receive information and support to apply.

Numerator – the number in the denominator where advice and support to apply is given.

Denominator – the number of vaccination appointments at age 3 years 5 months to 4 years where parents and carers may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme.

Data source: Local data collection

Outcome

a) Vitamin D deficiency.

Data source: Local data collection.

Outcome

b) Neural tube defects.

Data source: Local data collection.

Outcome

c) Iron and calcium absorption.

Data source: Local data collection.

What the quality statement means for service providers, healthcare professionals and commissioners

Service providers (such as primary, secondary, community care and public health providers) ensure that systems are in place to ensure that pregnant women and the parents and carers of children under 4 years who may be eligible are given information about the Healthy Start scheme and that an adequate supply of application forms is available for distribution by healthcare professionals.

Healthcare professionals ensure that they give information to pregnant women and the parents and carers of children under 4 years who may be eligible about the Healthy Start scheme, and provide them with support to apply, such as giving them a signed application form.

Commissioners (clinical commissioning groups, NHS England and local authorities) ensure that providers give information to pregnant women and the parents and carers of children under 4 years who may be eligible about the Healthy Start scheme and provide them with support to apply, including having enough application forms for distribution by healthcare professionals.

What the quality statement means for, service users and carers

Pregnant women and the parents and carers of children under 4 years who may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme are given information about it and help to apply (including a signed application form from their healthcare professional). The Healthy Start scheme provides free vitamins and food vouchers to people on low incomes.

Source guidance

Definitions of terms used in this quality statement

Pregnant women and the parents and carers who may be eligible

Pregnant women and the parents and carers of children under 4 years of age, who are in receipt of certain benefits, may be eligible for the Healthy Start scheme. All pregnant women under the age of 18 years are eligible.

Please see the Government's Healthy Start webpage for up‑to‑date information on eligibility criteria.

[Expert consensus]

Healthy Start scheme

The Healthy Start scheme provides food vouchers and coupons for vitamin supplements to pregnant women, new mothers and parents and carers with young children (under 4 years) who are on low incomes and to all pregnant women aged under 18 years. It aims to improve health and access to a healthy diet for families on low incomes across the UK.

[Adapted from Healthy Start vouchers study: the views and experiences of parents, professionals and small retailers in England]

Healthy Start maternal vitamin supplements

The Healthy Start vitamin supplement for pregnant and breastfeeding women contains folic acid to help reduce the baby's risk of neural tube defects, vitamin C to maintain healthy body tissue, and vitamin D to help iron and calcium absorption to keep bones healthy and ensure that the baby's bones and teeth grow strong.

Women who are eligible for the Healthy Start scheme receive coupons to obtain these vitamin supplements free of charge. Women who are not eligible for the Healthy Start scheme may be able to buy the supplements from community pharmacies and should ask their midwife or health visitor where to access the vitamins in their local area.

[Adapted from the Healthy Start website and expert consensus]

Healthy Start children's vitamin supplements

The Healthy Start supplement for children contains vitamins A, C and D, which help to strengthen the immune system, maintain healthy skin, and help with absorbing iron and calcium; keeping their bones and teeth healthy.

[Adapted from the Healthy Start website]

Healthy Start food vouchers

The Healthy Start food vouchers scheme is for families eligible for other means‑tested benefits and provides food vouchers to spend with local retailers. Pregnant women and parents and carers of children over 1 year and under 4 years get 1 voucher per week. Parents and carers of babies under 1 year get 2 vouchers per week. (See the Healthy Start website for more information).

The vouchers can be spent on:

  • pasteurised cow's milk

  • fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables (with no added ingredients), which can be whole or chopped, packaged or loose

  • cow's milk‑based infant formula milk suitable from birth.

[Adapted from the Healthy Start website and expert consensus]

Equality and diversity considerations

The risk of vitamin D deficiency can be increased in people with darker skin, for example, people who are black or of Asian family origin, or people who wear clothing that covers their entire body, and this should be considered by their healthcare professionals.

Care and support, and the information given about it, should be both age‑appropriate and culturally appropriate. It should also be accessible to people with additional needs such as physical, sensory or learning disabilities, and to people who do not speak or read English. Pregnant women, parents and carers should have access to an interpreter or advocate if needed.