Background: In the UK, a national personal child health record (PCHR) with local adaptations is in widespread use. Previous studies report that parents find the PCHR useful and that health visitors use it more than other health professionals. This study was carried out in Nottingham, where the local PCHR is similar to the national PCHR.
Objectives: To explore variation in use of the PCHR made by mothers with differing social characteristics, to compare heath visitors' and general practitioners' (GPs') use of the PCHR, and to compare health visitors' and GPs' perceptions of the PCHR with those of mothers for whose children they provide care.
Methods: Questionnaires to 534 parents registered with 28 general practices and interviews with a health visitor and GP at each practice. A score per mother for perceived usefulness of the PCHR was developed from the questionnaire, and variation in the score was investigated by linear regression adjusted for clustering.
Results: Four hundred and one (75%) questionnaires were returned. Three hundred and twenty-five (82%) mothers thought the PCHR was very good or good. Higher scores for usage of the PCHR were significantly associated with teenage and first-time mothers, but no association was found with mother's social class, education or being a single parent. There was no association between variation in the score and practice, health visitor or GP characteristics. Mothers, health visitors and GPs reported that mothers took the PCHR to baby clinic more frequently than when seeing their GP, and that health visitors wrote in the PCHR more frequently than GPs. Eighteen (67%) health visitors and 20 (71%) GPs said they had difficulty recording information in the PCHR.
Conclusion: The PCHR is used by most mothers and is important for providing health promotion material to all families with young children. It may be particularly useful for first-time and teenage mothers.