Revised guidance issued this week by the NHS says pregnant women in England will be permitted to have one person beside them “at all stages of her maternity journey” and attend appointments as long as the support partner is not showing any Covid-19 symptoms.
Guidance on visitors to maternity services has previously been published by governments in the devolved nations. On 5 September, a framework by the RCOG, Royal College of Midwives, and the Society and College of Radiographers, in partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement, was published to support maternity services with the local reintroduction of hospital visitors and individuals accompanying women to appointments. Today’s guidance replaces this framework.
Previously, it had been left to individual health trusts to draw up their own rules on whether a partner could be present. Under the new guidance, trusts have been requested to review their current rules.
Responding to the new guidance, Dr Edward Morris, President of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said:
“We are acutely aware how difficult restrictions on birth partners attending maternity services have been for women and families throughout the pandemic so we welcome this new guidance urging Trusts to ensure pregnant women have access to support from a person of their choosing at all stages of their maternity journey.
“This guidance should support Trusts to undertake any further risk assessments required to enable support partners to attend key appointments and scans, while keeping women and staff safe.
“We also hope the roll out of rapid testing will increase the time partners who test negative can spend with women and their babies on antenatal and postnatal wards, although we have concerns about the capacity and sensitivity of lateral flow testing to enable maternity services to reopen fully.
“With increasing prevalence of the virus in many areas and more than 60 % of the country under Tier 3 restrictions, decisions about visiting and access for partners and families will need to be based on local information and testing capacity, and clearly communicated to women and their families.
“We also call on the government to clarify legislation which suggests women attending for medical care who test positive for COVID-19 or who are in mandatory self-isolation cannot be accompanied by a support person.”
Notes to editors
- Supporting pregnant women using maternity services during the coronavirus pandemic: actions for NHS providers
- Since the suspension of hospital visiting in England of inpatients was lifted in June, visiting in maternity services was subject to local discretion by Trusts and other NHS bodies. Some Trusts in England have been permitting partners to attend antenatal appointments and pregnancy scans, but there has not been a consistent approach across the country, leading to frustration and confusion among pregnant women and their partners.
- Guidance on visitors to maternity services has previously been published by governments in the devolved nations. On 5 September, a framework by the RCOG, RCM, and the Society and College of Radiographers, in partnership with NHS England and NHS Improvement, was published to support maternity services with the local reintroduction of hospital visitors and individuals accompanying women to appointments. Today’s guidance replaces this framework.
- The RCOG supports the RCM’s set of common sense principles when considering whether to increase attendance of supporters and visitors at maternity services.
- It’s important that anyone attending hospitals and clinics for appointments and scans follows guidance in hospitals about social distancing, wearing a face covering and regular handwashing. These measures are in place to keep pregnant women, partners and staff safe.
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