So with starry girl about to start school I thought it was a good opportunity to think about the differences between preschool child health care in the UK versus the Netherlands. Though I guess I’m really comparing what happened in the two cities we’ve lived in, as I can’t assume it’s done in exactly the same way across both countries.

Both systems have a specialist team that deal with child wellness in addition to your family doctor. But their responsibilities and how thery carry these out differ somewhat.

In the UK they are called health visitors, and they are staffed by trained nurses or midwifes who have later specialised as health visitors. As well as young children they also work with the elderly, disabled and provide post operative care in the trasition of moving home. Literally healthcare practitioners that visit you. They work with your family doctor to provide parents support on everything related to babies. Once you’re discharged from the midwife team after birth they come to make sure everything’s going ok. And after the first few weeks they provide regular opportunities to have your baby weighed and measured to check they’re growing well. They are also a friendly face for any questions you might have. Where we lived there was a weekly drop-in session in a community hall close to our house, which we could go to every so often during the babies’ first year. There were four or five different sessions run on different days in different places across the town. Then there were annual check-ups. Vaccinations were done at the doctor’s surgery and I’m not entirely sure about eye tests as we moved away before the first one was scheduled for rocket boy (or I can’t remember it!).

In the Netherlands there is the Consultatie Bureau which is staffed by nurses and doctors. There is one for the whole municipality and everyone has to travel there (though I think they visit you first). There is a schedule for appointments, getting more spaced out over the four years. And these include vaccinations and eye tests when necessary. You can also contact them for general health queries or advise on specific issues. 

I found I got to know the health visitors in my team in the UK and so felt comfortable raising queries with them. Whereas the Dutch system it’s a much bigger team and you don’t see the same people each time. Though as I didn’t have a newborn here maybe that would have been different as I would’ve gone there more frequently. Though I did like the fact that in the Dutch way everything was done together and I didn’t have different appointments in different places.

Both systems have their advantages and support the development of babies and their parents. Having a child is a big change so I really want to thank both of these for helping me when I needed it. Now to work out the school doctor system!

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