The impact and response to COVID – 19 in the UK by the health visiting service
In my previous role as the Executive Director of the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) - www.ihv.org.uk, I was in charge during the initial COVID-19 periods supported by my Director of Policy, Alison Morton who is now the CEO of the iHV. It was obviously a very difficult time across the world.
In the UK, health visitors (public health nurses) devote their time to supporting babies and pre-school children and their families. As the hospitals filled up with COVID-19 patients this workforce became very sought after due to their prior nursing qualifications. In many areas of the country they were quickly redeployed away from their caseloads of families with little consideration of what the impact of this would be on those families and the children within them.
The iHV lobbied very hard to turn these decisions around. Not only were vulnerable babies and children becoming hidden in their homes, but the depleted workforce struggled to find new ways to access them. Furthermore to still provide a service where those children at particular risk could be identified early. In some areas the workforce was depleted by fifty and more percent rendering the health visiting role almost impossible whilst also operating under pandemic conditions.
The following papers describe what happened and were published by the iHV and a number of research teams working alongside them. The first is a published review paper whilst the subsequent reports and papers offer research methods and findings from inquiries held with health visitors and the families they support. Together they become a historical record of that period in time. Currently they are informing the national UK COVID-19 Inquiry.
Further publications and guidance produced for health visitors can be found here on the iHV website.
Papers and reports:
Morton, Alison & Adams, Cheryll, (2022). Health visiting in England: the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public Health Nursing, 1–11. https://tinyurl.com/3k35fxn2
Conti, G., & Dow, A. (2021b). Using FOI data to assess the state of Health Visiting Services in England before and during COVID-19. UCL Department of Economics. https://tinyurl.com/4uftetpm
Barlow, J., Bach-Mortensen, A., Homonchuk, O., & Woodman, J. (2020a). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on services from pregnancy through age 5 years for families who are high risk of poor outcomes or who have complex social needs – interim findings. Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford, UCL Institute
Barlow, J., Bach-Mortensen, A., Homonchuk, O., & Woodman, J. (2020b). The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on services from pregnancy through age 5 years for families who are high risk of poor outcomes or who have complex social needs – Stage 2 findings. Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford, UCL Institute