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Concern for babies born in lockdown.

Concerns are being raised for the wellbeing of babies born in lockdown, as parents struggle to access regular support services.

England's children's commissioner, Ann Longfield, highlighted pressures facing mothers caring for babies without the usual family and state support networks.

Most playgroups remain closed and health visitor consultations are being carried out remotely.

The briefing paper, from Anne Longfield's office, said more than 76,000 babies have been born in England under lockdown but births were not being registered, because of temporary rules tied to the virus pandemic, so even basic information about newborns was not being gathered.

Meanwhile, support services provided by health visitors and GPs are not readily accessible, with many taking place by phone and video calls or not at all.

The children’s commissioner highlights how up to 50% of health visitors in some areas of England were redeployed to other parts of the NHS as it re-organised to fight the pandemic.

There are also concerns many babies may have missed their developmental health checks, due in the first few weeks of life to pick up urgent developmental needs.

Institute of Health Visiting executive director, Dr Cheryll Adams, said health visitors are very concerned.

She said: "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."

Even though helplines for parents had been set up in most areas, the usual sources of support from family, friends and voluntary services were not as available as before.

Ms Longfield said: "At the best of times, around 10% of new mothers face perinatal,  or post-birth,  mental illness but GPs are closed, as are children's centres, playgroups and playgrounds, and the health visitor is doing her rounds by video link.

"There are even reports that, in some areas, families have been stopped from playing outside together by heavy-handed policing of lockdown rules.

"While the vast majority of new parents will be coping, there will be a significant minority where the additional challenge of a new child is a strain too far."

Ms Longfield is particularly concerned about children living in poverty or with risks such as domestic violence or mental illness.

She added: "Health services are usually where concerns about babies are identified and referred and these sare likely to remain under increased pressure for a long time."

She said that proactive steps were needed to ensure different agencies shared information about children there were concerns about and she called for ministers and local authorities to prepare for a surge in referrals to social services and post-natal services as lockdown eased.

Public Health England chief nurse, prof Viv Bennett, said: "Many community nursing services have been provided virtually and innovatively during the Covid-19 response.

"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."