Charities have raised concerns and said resumption of face-to-face checks would be ‘hugely valuable’ for assessing babies’ wellbeing and development.
Concerns have been raised that a significant proportion of health checks for new babies are still occurring online.
A new report highlights how many appointments are still being held virtually or over the phone.
And a large number of drop-in clinics that were in place before the pandemic no longer operate.
A new report, from the charities Best Beginnings, Home-Start UK and the Parent-Infant Foundation, says that Covid-19 restrictions are still having a “significant impact on babies, their families and the services that support them”.
The report, titled Nobody Wants To See My Baby, suggests that families are still struggling to access care, particularly from GPs and health visitors.
Meanwhile, many routine contacts with health visitors have been missed or delayed.
Indeed, last week the NSPCC raised concerns that 20% of babies in England in 2020-21 missed their health and development check when they were six to eight weeks of age.
And almost a quarter (24%) missed their one-year check.
The new report also includes a poll of 224 professionals and volunteers who work with families, which found that 28% reported that health visiting routine contacts and checks remained mainly on the phone or online.
And nearly a third (30%) reported that health visitor drop-in clinics that existed before the pandemic were no longer operating.
The authors said that resumption of face-to-face services would be “hugely valuable, particularly given the specific challenges of assessing babies’ wellbeing and development”.
One mother told the report’s authors: “We’ve not seen anyone. We had a Zoom call at the 12-month [health visitor] check-up.
“Of all my friends, I was the only one that actually got a video call, which was shocking. They didn’t even get a phone call.”
Meanwhile, the charities have been told by some parents that they are still unable to access baby and toddler groups.
Of the professionals surveyed, 12% said baby and toddler groups were “no longer operating in their area”.
“The absence and/or inaccessibility of community baby and toddler groups is likely to continue to exacerbate feelings of loneliness and isolation that have been reported over the pandemic,” the authors added.
The charities have called for the Government to act by investing in health visiting services and including support services for babies in Covid-19 recovery plans.
They also called for an “evidence-based approach” to be taken to the use of remote appointments and additional investment for face-to-face support where needed.
Sally Hogg, head of policy and communications of the Parent-Infant Foundation, one of the report’s authors, said: “We remain very concerned about the development of young children exposed to the greatest adversity during the pandemic.
“We have seen increasing evidence of the concerning impact of Covid-19 on the most vulnerable children. If services remain remote, many of these babies are invisible and their needs go unaddressed.”
A Department for Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We’re committed to ensuring everyone has the best start in life.
“The NHS, local authorities and health visitors are working hard to reinstate services to help families get the support they need and the Public Health Grant will continue to ensure investment is made in prevention and frontline services like child health visits.
“We’re giving £170 million for breastfeeding services, parent and infant mental health support, publication of clear Start for Life offers and trials of innovative workforce models.”