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Who is providing a safety net for babies and young children?

21st July 2020

With many health visitors in England redeployed during the early weeks of the pandemic, Alison Morton’s paper published in the July issue of Journal of Health Visiting considers the consequences for children and families, as well as the health visitors intended to support them – Who is providing a safety net for babies and young children?

A recent survey highlighted that health visitors experienced the highest level of redeployment during the COVID-19 pandemic in comparison with social workers and midwives (Barlow et al, 2020). This happened at a time when families’ needs and vulnerabilities were increasing due to the secondary impact of lockdown, and when many support services were scaled back.

But was the redeployment of health visitors necessary? Are there lessons we need to learn from the delivery of the national emergency plan to ensure that we are better prepared in the future?

Redeploying specialist community public health nurses into non-public health roles during the biggest global public health emergency we have experienced in living memory would appear to be counter-intuitive. However, to understand the decisions made, it is important to avoid ‘hindsight bias’ – a common pitfall that occurs when we view circumstances based on the information we have after the event that was not available to the people involved at the time.

“If we face a second wave of infections, will future emergency plans include the redeployment of health visitors? We hope that this will not be the case, and that lessons will have been learned. It is vital that the needs of children and families are prioritised and given the attention they deserve..”

Many thanks to Journal of Health Visiting for providing free access to this paper.