A decade of changing lives: Now we are 10

Cast your mind back ten years. Tony Blair was still Prime Minister, the iPhone had yet to be unveiled and smoking in enclosed places was still legal. It is also ten years ago today that the first 10 FNP sites in England were announced. And, while it’s incredible to think just how much has changed since then, just as remarkable is what we have achieved together, across the FNP community and with many others, in that time. There is a huge amount to be proud of.

We’re planning a series of events and activities throughout the year to mark this anniversary and the many other “firsts” that happened in the months that followed. We want to celebrate, to explore the learning we have all gained over the last ten years, and most importantly to listen to the many voices who have experienced FNP from many different perspectives.

We’ll be sharing our plans for these events soon. But for today, I wanted to reflect on three developments which, to me, seem particularly significant as we think about the future.

First, I mentioned listening to many voices. One of the things I’m most proud that FNP has achieved is exceptionally strong engagement with clients – young mothers, and often fathers too, who are treated with respect, as experts in their own lives and as partners in the design of their care. This matters. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes the “danger of the single story” in this wonderful talk (http://ed.ted.com/on/yrFIfun1) – reminding us that if we see an issue from many perspectives - hearing multiple stories - we will be better able to understand, to learn (and therefore improve), and to “empower and humanise”. Certainly in FNP we have seen high levels of engagement in services from groups often considered “hard to reach”, a strong desire by FNP clients to be the best parents they can – and belief that they can do this - and the confidence to “give back” to their communities and society – speaking at local boards, supporting other new parents and helping to shape the changes we are making through ADAPT. There is still a lot more we can and will do, but these feel like strong foundations to build on.

Secondly, in the last ten years we have seen real and growing recognition of the importance of the first 1001 days of a child’s life. It is now well understood by many that pregnancy and babyhood have enormous power to shape health, well-being, happiness and life chances beyond childhood and throughout adulthood. Furthermore, there is now a common understanding that it is emotional experience as well as good physical health and cognitive development which helps drive future outcomes. I’m pleased that FNP has played its part in bringing thinking about love, attachment, relational working and collaboration into the mainstream. This is another rich seam to explore more deeply, with others, as we go into the future.

Finally, there is technology. Family nurses were early adopters of texting service users, and found this helped oil the wheels of their relationships with clients as well as smoothing practical delivery. We have struggled to keep pace, however, as technology has transformed the way we communicate with our loved ones, manage our lives day-to-day and use services. I believe there is a real prize to be won in FNP through harnessing the best technology can offer while retaining the relational, personal core of the programme and people’s experience of it and I want us to strive towards this.

So, over the next year, at the same time as we take time to look back, reflect and learn, we’ll also be looking to the future with real ambition, to continue to change the world one baby at a time. I’m excited about sharing these conversations with you all in the coming months.

By Ailsa Swarbrick, FNP National Unit Director