England's Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield, has confirmed that an estimated 76,000 babies will have been born during this period of lockdown.
She has raised concerns for mothers and babies born during this time who are going without the usual state provided support networks. These mothers and babies in many cases do not currently have the support of their families and friends. Playgroups which are often used by mothers to develop links to the local area, to build relationships, and to assist with their child’s development, are also closed.
The NHS has quite rightly had to adapt for the safety of babies and their mothers. Health visitors are now carrying out remote appointments in most cases. Ms Longfield has advised that in addition there are limited health visitors available, as up to 50% of health visitors in some areas of England had been redeployed within the NHS to assist with the pandemic. Dr Cheryll Adams (Institute of Health Visiting Executive Director) has confirmed that many health visitors were concerned;
"In some areas, the six-week GP baby check hasn't been available or parents haven't wanted to attend it due to a potential risk of infection.”
GPs are also mainly taking appointments by telephone or video call, with face to face appointments only taking place in exceptional circumstances. Developmental health checks are usually in place and are critical in the first few weeks of life to ensure that urgent concerns with a child’s development are picked up and treated as needed. This is particularly important in cases where babies are born to new mothers who may not have the experience to identify an emerging issue. There are concerns by many that this lack of face to face contact with health services could lead to a deteriorating health condition of both mother and baby being missed.
The lack of personal contact with health services is also likely to increase a mother’s feeling of isolation at what can be a very challenging time in their life. England’s Children’s Commissioner, Anne Longfield, has advised that;
"At the best of times, around 10% of new mothers face perinatal [post-birth] mental illness”.
The increased isolation during lockdown could also have a significant impact on mothers, and indeed fathers, who are experiencing difficulty with their mental health. In many places helplines have been set up for parents, however staffing is limited, and voluntary services which would usually be available to supplement the NHS, are not open.
Children living in poverty, families affected by domestic violence, and parents suffering from mental ill health are a particular concern for the Children’s Commissioner;
“There will be a significant minority where the additional challenge of a new child is a strain too far…Health services are usually the places where concerns about babies are identified and referred - and these services are likely to remain under increased pressure for a long period of time.”
Temporary rules tied to the pandemic have advised that new births are not to be registered. It is concerning that the basic information about new babies is not being gathered in the usual way. Ms Longfield has made clear that various agencies should ensure they share information where concerns are raised about children. She felt it was likely that there would be a surge in referrals to social services and post-natal services when lockdown measures were eased and encouraged those services to prepare accordingly. Public Health England chief nurse Prof Viv Bennett said:
"With the onset of Covid-19, some public health nurses were redeployed in hospitals where their expertise was most needed to care for acutely ill patients…It is important that as pressures ease, these nurses are able to quickly get back to help support those families and young people."
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For more information about the original news story please click the following link: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-52560388