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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

Institute of Health Visiting (2020b). State of health visiting in England. https://tinyurl.com/34uapumn

Institute of Health Visiting (2020c). Health visiting during COVID-19: An iHV report. https://tinyurl.com/yrsr5nbh

Institute of Health Visiting (2020a). Making history: Health visiting during Covid-19. https://tinyurl.com/mvka7v7b

Adams C. “Is a secondary pandemic on its way?” https://tinyurl.com/2ruh82de
Best Beginnings, Home-Start UK, and the Parent-Infant Foundation (2020). Babies in Lockdown: Listening to parents to build back better. https://tinyurl.com/42dua6yt

Morton, A. (2020a). Zooming in but missing out: Can you do a “virtual” universal health review? Institute of Health Visiting Voices Blog. https://tinyurl.com/yeyudtak

Morton, A. (2020b). Who is providing a safety net for babies and young children? Journal of Health Visiting. https://tinyurl.com/yp5tc8xc

Conti, G., & Dow, A. (2020a). The impacts of COVID-19 on health visiting in England: FOI evidence for the first wave [Unpublished manuscript]. https://tinyurl.com/yr8hbjjt

Conti, G., & Dow, A. (2020b). The impacts of COVID-19 on health visiting in England first results. https://tinyurl.com/2cwzwk95

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
of Education on behalf of the NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit (CPRU). https://tinyurl.com/2s67t8xv

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
of Education on behalf of the NIHR Children and Families Policy Research Unit (CPRU). https://tinyurl.com/2rvp94nn

Dr Cheryll Adams CBE
Chair, Global Network of Public Health Nursing

1 Comment


Dear Cheryll,

Its great to see these documentary resources collated here and I look forward to returning to them.

Helen

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