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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 February 2008, 15:19 GMT
Tories ponder baby nurses for all
Baby feet (generic)
Mothers would get advise on how to bath their newborns
Plans for a dedicated maternity nurse to help every new mother in her home during her baby's first week of life are being considered by the Tories.

Based on the system in the Netherlands, the plan would give mothers specialist help for up to six hours a day.

The nurses would advise on bathing and breastfeeding, as well as monitoring babies' vital early development.

It is thought a dedicated maternity nurse could look after two new mothers per week, at a cost of about 1,000.

Health minister Ann Keen questioned how the scheme would be funded.

She said: "It is irresponsible for the Tories to make unfunded and uncosted spending promises on maternity services that they cannot deliver."

Tory leader David Cameron has asked shadow children's secretary Michael Gove and shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley to travel to the Netherland to observe the scheme in action and consider its applicability to the England and Wales.

Cleaning and laundry

As well as helping mothers care for babies and keeping a diary of their progress, the Dutch nurses help with chores such as cleaning and laundry, make sure older children are properly fed and ensure mothers' rest is not interrupted by too many visitors.

Mr Gove told the Observer: "If we can provide a better level of support for parents in the first months, we may be able to help crack some of the problems of inequality and social mobility which hold us back as a country, by ensuring that every child gets the sort of support that currently only the wealthier can buy."

Any Conservative scheme is likely to be piloted in disadvantaged areas first, before being rolled out gradually across the country.

The maternity nurse scheme is one of the proposals put forward by the Conservatives' Childhood Report, due for publication on Monday.

The report follows a year-long review by the Conservatives prompted by a Unicef report which put the UK at the bottom of a table of 21 rich countries for the well-being of children.

There are 670,000 births a year in England and Wales.

Details of proposal being mulled by the Conservatives

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