Report of the Director of Public Health
The Committee received a presentation on the impact of Covid on new parents and their babies.
It was reported that from the outset Maternity Services in Gateshead sought to protect mothers. This meant that some appointments were held over the telephone and attendance at face to face appointments had to be done alone. Birthing partners were restricted to the parent or co-parent and there was no visiting on the postnatal ward. It was noted that this meant a lot of new mothers had more time to speak to other mothers on the ward.
During the home visit, only the mother could be in attendance. In most cases the 10 day postnatal review appointments and transfer to health visitors, were held via telephone. The pregnancy app and website were kept updated and reviewed regularly.
In terms of the 0-19 service contacts were flexible at the start of the pandemic. Initially there was a short supply of PPE and certain areas were prioritised, such as child protection, based on government guidance. As a result of this, virtual clinics were developed and feedback from some mothers was that this allowed them to ask certain questions which they may not have felt comfortable asking in a Children’s Centre setting. Face to face clinics were reintroduced from September 2021 and Children’s Centres remained open throughout the pandemic. Throughout this time, advice was promoted through social media and the full offer was introduced from April 2021.
The Committee received two case studies of cases under both the Health Visiting Team and the Family Nurse Partnership.
It was reported that we are now starting to see the impact of Covid in terms of development and emotional impact and it is expected that this will be seen for a number of years to come. The next steps are to develop confident, positive and resilient parenting, offer high quality services and support, offer support to schools.
It was reported that Gateshead is one of 75 authorities to receive funding over the next three years to take forward Best Start for Life recommendations and the following action areas; seamless support, welcoming hub, information, empowered workforce, continuous improvement and leadership for change. Notification of this funding was received at the beginning of April and is moving at pace.
It was questioned as to how cases are allocated to Health Visitors to ensure they are not inundated. It was confirmed that each Health Visitor is managed by one of five locality managers who look at the cases of each Health Visitor to ensure workload is allocated evenly. Regular supervisions are held and work rebalanced if required. In areas of high deprivation there is more health visitor safeguarding supervision and nurses support them. It was acknowledged that there remains some vacancies on the Team and that this is a national issue. It was also noted that there were changes to the budget for health visiting and school nursing which has meant a reduction in the number of staff in service.
Concerns were raised that Covid has impacted on children being school ready and that this is taking up time in early years settings. It was agreed that specific schools and support available would be discussed with officers outside of the meeting.
RESOLVED - (i) That the Committee noted the information presented.
(ii) That a further update be brought back to a future