National acclaim for Public Health Nursing’s virtual support during lockdown

Somerset’s Public Health Nursing service has been nationally acclaimed by the Institute for Health Visiting.

A case study published nationally documents the innovative online support developed by the Somerset County Council service during lockdown – a time when face-to-face appointments were no longer possible.

Health Visitors, who as part of their role visit new parents after having a baby, had to adopt big changes to the way they work in order to continue to deliver this vital service under recent Government restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The teams have had to find workarounds to enable them to deliver services to new parents to offer much needed support advice and guidance, weigh-ins for new babies, ante-natal, post-natal and infant feeding support and other essential contacts.

Councillor Clare Paul, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing at Somerset County Council, said: “This has been an extremely difficult and challenging time for everyone; but to be a new parent whilst Government restrictions are in place comes with even more challenges.

“To see how Health Visitors have adapted their work to respond to the needs of parents and babies right now is particularly humbling.

“I am extremely proud of all the staff across the council for how hard they have worked in order to keep our services going, and this national recognition is well deserved.”

The team set up groups for parents to communicate via social media platforms and text message groups – providing that all important ‘peer to peer’ support at a time when isolation and social distancing was affecting people socialising with friends.

Health visitors have been offering virtual contacts over the telephone and video calling new parents, providing a ‘drop off’ system in order that parents can receive scales needed to weigh their babies (for babies whose weight may need closer monitoring following discharge from the midwifery teams) and offering face to face appointments in clinic settings where social distancing can be observed.

The Assistant Practitioners have continued to offer developmental checks at 9-12 months and 2-2.5years, either virtually or face to face where they are able to. They have also been offering sleep, weaning and behaviour support remotely to parents.

The school nurses have continued to provide a service to schools, young people and communities. They have also developed Facebook pages aiming to reach parents and young people.

Some of the new processes that were set up have proved to be very successful, such as linking in with GPs when working with children requiring continence medication for example.

Despite the lockdown the PHN teams have continued, where possible, to work hard within focus groups to produce pathways and guidelines for PSHE, emotional health, school readiness and LGBT amongst others.

The HV and SN teams have continued to work closely with partner agencies to maintain the safety of vulnerable children and young people.

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