PlunketLine celebrates its 25th birthday

More than two million parents and caregivers have called Plunket’s 24/7 parent helpline when they have needed advice on the health and wellbeing of their child or whānau.

Plunket staff are celebrating the milestone this month, which included a morning tea with the Prime Minister Rt Hon Jacinda Ardern and Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter, along with other special guests.

"We are absolutely privileged and lucky to have this service in New Zealand because it is unique and it is part of our fabric as a nation,” Ms Ardern said.

Plunket chief executive Amanda Malu said PlunketLine was a universal service that is whānau-centred and accessible to all families.

"Everyone has a phone these days – and through PlunketLine they have access to registered nurses who offer clinical advice and support for parents and caregivers, 365 days a year.

"We are extremely proud of PlunketLine and know how much parents, whānau and caregivers value and trust the service." ​

PlunketLine attracts passionate people

The 25-year history of PlunketLine outlines the heroes of the 24/7 freephone service – the people with the passion that make things happen.

PlunketLine's first manager, Jenny Allan, says establishing the service was pioneering but she was committed to the cause, even taking night classes to improve her computer skills.

Ms Allan, who managed the service from 1994 until 2004, says there were lots of trials and tribulations in setting up PlunketLine, such as assessing computer systems, telcos, a location to operate, shifts and rosters.

"But we did it and we were very successful – the minute we started offering the phone line, the calls started coming in.

"It was really cool that as a mum at home you could ring anybody at any time of the day or night to get some really professional help and support.

"We couldn't see our clients so our listening skills became very finely tuned. Being able to listen and visualise what the mother was talking about led to people making really good decisions about acute care."

Ms Allan says PlunketLine's strength has been its availability 24/7. "We are there when the need arises. You don't have to wait six weeks and wonder what you should do in the interim."

One of PlunketLine's longest-serving nurses, Anne Norton, says there have been changes over the years, in particular around technology.

Recently PlunketLine has introduced a new digital service to help mothers needing extra support with breastfeeding their babies.

Available through PlunketLine, this new video conferencing breast feeding service allows Plunket to work directly with mothers who have been referred and provide advice as they are feeding.

The video conferencing breastfeeding service has brought a different dimension to her work, Anne says.

"Last week I had a call from a tearful mother and set up a call for her baby's next feed, which she was dreading due to severe nipple pain. We spent 45 minutes on the call together and the following day I rang her to find things had improved immeasurably. We put in place an ongoing plan and she, like all families, can access our service 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"It is stories like these that indicate why I have stayed in the job so long. This combined with a great team who are supportive and fun to be with have made it a fabulous role."

PlunketLine Manager Denise Shera says PlunketLine gets in your DNA. She has been managing the service since 2013.

"I like the way that we are always evolving - and hearing the great stories every day of how we have made a difference."


PlunketLine is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the call is free from any phone 0800 933 922

16 April 2019

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