The government's controversial Supporting Families green paper, launched last week, looks set to have major implications for the health service.

Making workplaces family-friendly, tackling teenage pregnancy and an enhanced role for health visitors were among the proposals outlined in the home secretary's report.

The role of health visitors role will expand to include providing support throughout early childhood, instead of visiting for just the first 10 days after birth.

Health visitors will offer to visit every week until the baby is six weeks old and help parents to cope with children's development and to develop parenting skills.

The government also hopes health visitors will offer toddler training groups, early relationship groups to look at sibling rivalry, and school settling groups to address school discipline. They might also get involvedteenage groups, looking at issues like drug misuse, the report suggests.

'The scale of it is enormous,' said Andrew Foster, chair of the NHS Confederation's human resources policy group.

'It is a fantastic idea, but needs resourcing.'

It would take five years to recruit and train staff, but it might be possible for district nurses or health promotion staff to take on some of this new role, he added.

Health visitors described the changes as 'groundbreaking'.

Supporting Families - a consultation document is available from The Stationery Office, price£5, or on the Internet: