Health visitors and school nurses have been redeployed during the coronavirus pandemic to roles that do not use their skills, such as administration and healthcare assistant posts, Nursing in Practice has learned.
Nursing leaders have warned that health visitors and school nurses have been moved into ‘inappropriate’ posts at a time when vulnerable families need their support more than ever.
Domestic abuse victims could be at greater risk because of the lockdown and scaling back of services during coronavirus, nursing groups have already warned.
Institute of Health Visiting executive director Dr Cheryll Adams told Nursing in Practice: ‘We have heard that some redeployed health visitors have not been given posts using their skills.
‘This is very worrying at a time when we know more families are vulnerable as they can’t access the same levels of support.’
Health visitors are ‘very skilled professionals’ and ‘need to still be available in sufficient numbers in the community to be able to support the families who will need them’, she added.
‘Meaningful help may take longer now due to the obvious restrictions on home visiting and lack of access to the usual support,’ Dr Adams said.
‘Employers should risk assess very carefully and be sure of their workforce modelling before they redeploy any health visitors if this could potentially put more children at increased risk,’ she added.
Sharon White, chief executive of the School and Public Health Nurses Association, told Nursing in Practice that school nurses have been asked to take on ‘unqualified nursing, admin or healthcare assistants’ posts.
She continued: ‘When you’re a nurse, you want to go to the frontline and help out because that’s our call. But then to be recalled into inappropriate roles is a disgrace.’
However, Ms White added that she hopes ‘the tide is turning’. Some trusts have returned redeployed school nurses to their posts, she said.
One health visitor based in the south of England, who wished to remain anonymous, told Nursing in Practice that her trust had offered a retired health visitor a band 3 healthcare assistant post when they asked about returning to work.
An NHS spokesperson said: ‘The NHS is currently dealing with the single biggest healthcare challenge in our history and health and care staff have responded magnificently, including working in new and different roles, so that in a very short time the NHS has opened new Nightingale hospitals, hugely increased telephone consultations and completely redesigned many clinical services.’
Health visitors and school nurses have a mixed employment model where some work for the NHS but others are employed by local authorities. Those employed by local authorities fall outside of the NHS workforce redeployment models.
Last week, health visitors urged parents to ensure their children were still vaccinated during the coronavirus pandemic.