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Health visiting in England: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

7th February 2022


Last week, we were delighted that the international ‘Public Health Nursing’ journal published a paper written by Alison Morton, the iHV’s Executive Director, and Dr Cheryll Adams CBE, Former Executive Director, on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 on families with children under 5 years in England, and the health visiting (HV) service that supports them.

The paper (Health visiting in England: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic) presents a targeted review of the evidence, with data drawn from national surveys of health visitors and parents, a freedom of information request of employers, published research, and national data. Framework analysis and triangulation, using the Key Elements of an effective health visiting service, were used to categorise the key findings.

The findings from the review indicate that the impacts of the pandemic were wide-ranging and disproportionately affected the most disadvantaged families, increasing demand for health visiting support. The pandemic exacerbated factors that can lead to poorer outcomes for families. Health visitors’ ability to respond was compromised due to national policy decisions to partially stop the service and variations in local implementation including the redeployment of health visitors, pre-existing workforce capacity issues, and the effectiveness of innovations to identify and support vulnerable families.

Key learning from the pandemic response, including the need to prioritise the health visiting service, must be acted upon to reduce ongoing impacts now and ensure that the service is equipped for future emergencies.

Alison Morton commented:

“History has a habit of ‘airbrushing’ the past and it is therefore important that the events of the earliest months of the pandemic are recorded, and the learning is captured to support future responses to similar emergency situations. It was an honour to be able to complete this review in partnership with my predecessor, Dr Cheryll Adams. We are both delighted to see it published in the prestigious international journal, ‘Public Health Nursing’ which is the official journal of the Council of Public Health Nursing Organizations worldwide.

“Babies, young children and families have largely been forgotten in the pandemic response and we hope that this paper, alongside numerous others presenting similar messages, will provide the impetus for much-needed change and investment in the health visiting service in England”

The paper has been published online by Wiley – Public Health Nursing journal as an open access paper – you can read the paper in full here:

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