Victims of domestic abuse could be left in a support ‘vacuum’ as health visitors and school nurses are redeployed to help tackle coronavirus, nursing groups have warned.
Director of policy and quality for the Institute of Health Visiting (iHV) Alison Morton told Nursing in Practice that the redeployment of health visitors could mean family members being abused in the home are at greater risk.
Ms Morton said a recent iHV review found a ‘wide variation’ in the number of health visitors redeployed nationally and that in some areas between 50% and 70% were sent to work elsewhere.
She continued: ‘This will seriously reduce the capacity of health visiting to respond to situations like [domestic abuse]… Potentially we’re leaving a bit of a vacuum with nobody to fill those roles.’
She warned that countries, such as Italy, China and France have seen the ‘secondary impact of Covid-19′ through rising domestic violence cases.
Ms Morton said health visitors were ‘incredibly willing’ to support frontline NHS services but cautioned that the workforce is ‘hugely stretched’.
She continued: ‘Some staff are reporting high levels of stress and anxiety. However, their overarching concern is that the needs of children and vulnerable families will be overlooked.’
Health visitor and campaigning group Nurses United lead organiser Anthony Johnson said it has ‘always been challenging’ to support victims of domestic violence but it is ‘even worse’ now staff are being redeployed.
‘Domestic violence doesn’t stop just because of Covid-19. In fact, the figures from Refuge show that it increases,’ he added.
Queen’s Nursing Institute chief executive Dr Crystal Oldman told Nursing in Practice that redeployment of health visitors and school nurses was ‘understandable’ but that victims of domestic abuse must still be able to access support.
She continued: ‘We do not yet know how long isolation measures may be in force and serious consideration must be given to supporting families and those at risk of physical or psychological harm, who may be more vulnerable than ever in this pressured time.’