Health visitors and school nurses should not be redeployed again, insists PHE

Hundreds of nurses working with vulnerable children and families were redeployed in March to assist with the pandemic response. 

James McKay
19 October 2020
Nurse chest child

Ensuring adequate support for families “needs to be a priority”.

Public Health England (PHE) have told NHS Trusts in England that health visitors, school nurses, and other nurses who support families should not be redeployed again.

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A joint letter from Prof Viv Bennett, England’s Chief Nurse Ruth May, and Councillor Ian Hudspeth was sent to directors of nursing earlier this month.

It comes after many nurses working with vulnerable children and families were redeployed in March to assist with the pandemic response.

Figures from NHS Digitial show the number of health visitors and school nurses in England have consistently fallen in recent years meaning many services are already stretched.

The letter reads; “There have been increases in safeguarding concerns, domestic abuse, child and maternal mental health problems as well as lost learning time for all children, impacting on outcomes for safety and wellbeing.

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“Sustaining support for families’ needs to be a priority if short and long term harms are to be prevented, identified and mitigated.

“Therefore, we advise that professionals supporting children and families, such as health visitors, school nurses, designated safeguarding officers and nurses supporting children with special educational needs should not be redeployed to other services and should be supported to provide services through in pregnancy, early years (0-19) and to the most vulnerable families.

“Where these public health and specialist nurses have specific skills and experience that is required locally (for example, training in ITU) then individual discussions should take place, and if these individuals are redeployed this should be for shortest possible time.”

Adding; “Local authorities and directors of public health as commissioners of the service are very clear that this a ‘front line’ activity that needs to be maintained through the winter.”

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