Health visitors 'lack PPE to keep families safe'


The government has been urged to offer increased support for “struggling” health visitors lacking basic protective equipment during the coronavirus pandemic.

Health visitors have been left without gloves and hand sanitiser, Unite the Union says. Picture: Adobe Stock
Health visitors have been left without gloves and hand sanitiser, Unite the Union says. Picture: Adobe Stock

Health visitors working with vulnerable families and young children have said they are unable to “keep themselves and those they are visiting safe” because of a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Unite the Union, which supports health visitors across England, has called on the government to provide equipment such as gloves, masks and hand sanitiser to those working on the frontline of the crisis.

Unite’s lead professional officer for health visiting Obi Amadi said: “Our community practitioner members are working really hard to provide services in the community. In many areas, they have been struggling to keep themselves and those they are visiting safe because of the lack of PPE. There is also a reported lack of hand sanitisers.

“The health and care staff working in the community play a vitally important role, but feel they have not had access to enough PPE, nor been sufficiently recognised for their tireless below-the radar efforts at this time of national emergency.”

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail added: “The government needs to provide urgently an immediate, adequate and free-flowing supply of PPE to the hospital and community sectors of the NHS.

“It is sometimes forgotten that health visitors and community nurses are out there every day visiting parents in their homes offering excellent advice on newborn babies and young children.

“And while it is generally accepted that children are relatively immune from Covid-19, they or their parents may unwittingly have picked up the virus.

“The health visitor and community nurse role is particularly important now as parents are, quite rightly, extra anxious about their own health and that of their children.

“The least we can do is to see that the community nurse workforce has the right protective equipment.”

Social workers have also reported a lack of PPE with sector leaders, reiterating calls for them to be protected following the death of a Southwark Council worker from the virus, also known as Covid-19.

Last week the Institute of Health Visiting (IHV) launched a free online resource service to support health visitors during the crisis.

It includes advice for staff carrying out antenatal and new birth visits as well as support for those carrying out virtual visits and working with vulnerable families.

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