Health visitor deployment has left children at risk

Health visitors fear that the needs of vulnerable children have been missed due to staff redeployment to support the coronavirus workforce.

The UCL survey of 663 health visitors in England, conducted between 19 June and 21 July 2020, found that 41 per cent of respondents in teams that lost staff had between six and 50 team members redeployed between 19 March to 3 June 2020. This means that one in the teams experienced the redeployment of at least half their staff.

Few teams (nine per cent) among those with staff redeployed) gained additional staff to fill the gaps. This meant that 38 per cent of respondents had their caseload increase, some with an increase of 50 per cent or more, and 73 per cent of those that experienced a change reported that their caseload had not returned to its usual size.  

The survey also finds that health visitors continued to provide some face-to-face meetings, but were at risk of contracting coronavirus due to close contact with clients with symptoms and inadequate personal protective equipment (PPE). Among those who delivered face-to-face visits, 35 per cent reported they did not have appropriate PPE at some point, even basic items such as masks, aprons and hand gel.

Russell Viner, from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, said: “During lockdown, when their contribution was more important than ever, the crucial work of health visitors has been hampered by a lack of PPE and by frequently – and often needlessly – being redeployed into areas away from children and families. This can never be allowed to happen again.  Children now need to be at the heart of planning in the event of either local or national lockdowns and for the demands of the coming winter.   

“These findings paint an extremely bleak picture. The health visitor workforce is absolutely vital to the health of children and now more so than ever. Health visitors act as a frontline defence against multiple child health problems – from providing advice to parents on nutrition and feeding, to early identification of risk factors for mortality, advising on vaccinations and identifying vulnerable children.

“As under-resourced services struggle to cope with the backlog of missed appointments, missed reviews, missed operations and missed vaccinations, UK children are facing a winter from which some will never fully recover. Their needs must be prioritised by this government right now. Proper resourcing of a profession as key as health visiting is a very good place to start.”

Event Diary

Following the 2017 Naylor Report into NHS estates, it has been estimated that estate upkeep costs have reached approximately £10bn in annual funding for 2019/2020.

More recently, ERIC (Estates Returns Information Collection) data collection has contained some deeply alarming news about the condition of NHS buildings and equipment.

Supplier Profiles