Covid: NHS hospital trusts told to rethink pregnant women partner ban

Fresh guidance issued after growing outrage about women being forced to go through labour alone

Hospital trusts have been ordered by the NHS to review their current rules and allow pregnant women to have their partner present throughout scans, labour and birth.

The new guidance comes after increasing outrage that women were being forced to go through labour alone, and hear devastating news about miscarriages without the support of their partners, as trusts restricted access to maternity services to decrease the risk of spreading coronavirus.

It should mean that all expectant mothers will be allowed one person to accompany them “at all stages of her maternity journey” and attend appointments, as long as the support partner is not showing any Covid-19 symptoms.

The new guidance states that the support “facilitates emotional wellbeing and is a key component of safe and personalised maternity care”, adding: “It is, therefore, our aim, further to a risk assessment, that a woman should have access to support from a person of her choosing at all stages of her maternity journey and that all trusts should facilitate this as quickly as possible.”

Trusts have been told to carry out a risk assessment to establish if there is an “elevated risk of Covid-19 transmission if support people are present”. If risks are identified they should change the configuration of space, “alongside provision of other appropriate infection prevention and control measures, including training and PPE (personal protective equipment)”.

The news was welcomed by campaigners who have pushed for the change. “This is a big step forward, but we’re far from the finish line yet,” said Joeli Brearley, the chief executive of the charity Pregnant Then Screwed. “Hospital staff need support and resources to ensure they can lift these restrictions safely. Ultimately what we all want are happy, healthy staff and patients, and we need to see a plan in place that shows exactly how we will achieve this.”

However, the Royal College of Midwives said it could not endorse the guidance as it did not adopt 10 principles it had put forward. It said NHS trusts in England should exercise “common sense” when considering if to allow a support person to accompany expectant mothers at maternity services.

“We support and trust local maternity and midwifery leaders to make decisions in the best interest of the women in their care,” said Gill Walton, the college’s chief executive.

“With more areas moving into tier 3 restrictions, many will question the common sense of releasing this new guidance now.”


Alexandra Topping

The GuardianTramp

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