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COVID-19 Sutton Health and Care Health Visiting Response

11th May 2020

A blog by Debbie Holroyd FiHV, Practice Educator/ Health Visiting at Sutton Health and Care Alliance, describing the health visiting service that they are able to deliver during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Debbie Holroyd FiHV, Practice Educator/ Health Visiting, Sutton Health and Care Alliance

We find ourselves in unprecedented times during the COVID-19 virus pandemic. Never before has the country faced such a threat  in peacetime. COVID-19 presents us with a situation which is currently life threatening at this acute stage but also ongoing in terms of its impact long term to children and families , the  threat of a secondary pandemic is well founded.

I would like to pay tribute to the health visitors, community nursery nurses, safeguarding team and infant feeding support worker who remain within our much reduced service within Sutton Health and Care Alliance (a large proportion of our staff having been redeployed). They are simply amazing in their dedication to keeping our service going under extremely difficult circumstances. Most of our staff are working from home, as per government guidelines, using their laptops and phones to maintain client contacts.

Currently, we are maintaining contacts for the new birth, 6-8 week check and safeguarding work. Vulnerable antenatal clients are contacted as necessary.

We have created a folder on our shared drive to underpin our reduced service offer, for staff to access guidelines, resources etc.

Our RIO planners have been adapted to help staff work more easily and to reflect the two teams we have created for our staff to work from.

All these contacts are being done virtually via phone, Whatsapp facetime and other local secure interactive platforms.

We maintain a 9-5 advice line manned by a health visitor with two community nursery nurses to support and follow up if needs be. A&E attendances are monitored and followed up as necessary.

We have a bookable clinic at a base for urgent need to follow up vulnerable babies etc.

Staff have been innovative – we are exploring delivering “Starting solids” workshops via Zoom for clients and hope to expand this offer to cover other common topics such as sleep, colic, reflux, crying babies etc.

Our infant feeding  support worker is in discussions around setting up a virtual drop in for breastfeeding issues , watch this space!

Our Facebook page is regularly updated with useful information, resources and links for clients.

Our SCPHN students are currently suspended from practice as it is not possible to facilitate the placement effectively during this time. To that end, we are looking at ways they can be involved in practice safely and meaningfully. Helping them to develop resources for clients, facilitating virtual interactive sessions with client groups or individuals under supervision, work ongoing….

The virtual world we currently inhabit is not easy, health visiting is an evidence-based profession but it is also an art. The art lies in the relationship we develop with our clients in a one-off meeting and over time. This is difficult to do virtually, we need to see the client in reality, look at the body language, observe a mother’s interaction with her baby, be aware of the subliminal signals that alert us to a depressed mother or woman (or man) trapped within an abusive relationship. We need to see a baby to assess it fully.

We also need time, which we do not have with a much reduced service and staff struggling to just get through the demands of the day.

The upstream work we do routinely is, of course, impossible, vulnerable families do not disappear. Recent evidence indicates that domestic violence, for example, has increased during lockdown. Safeguarding issues will come into sharp relief, perinatal mental illness may  not be discovered.

Staff are naturally worried that they are unable to meet the needs out there. Safeguarding is a real concern as most staff are working with clients they have not met – this is extremely stressful for them.

Within Sutton Health and Care Alliance, we are very fortunate to have a motivated, dedicated and professional group of staff who are going above and beyond to support our clients.

Thank you again

Debbie Holroyd FiHV, Practice Educator/ Health Visiting, Sutton Health and Care Alliance

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