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Wednesday, Oct 21, 2020

More than 60 MPs sign letter calling for partners to be allowed at births

More than 60 MPs sign letter calling for partners to be allowed at births

More than 60 MPs are calling for NHS trusts to lift the ban on partners being bedside during births.

The practice, brought in amid the coronavirus lockdown, has forced thousands of expecting parents to attend stressful appointments without the support of their loved ones.

In a letter, signed by former Health Secretary Jeremey Hunt, the MPs have now demanded the rules be changed as they accused local health chiefs of ‘dragging their feet’.

They also argue that the trusts have failed to follow Government guidance, which allows family members to be present at scans and during labour.

The letter, launched with the Mail on Sunday, states: ‘We are failing women if restrictive support policies in pregnancy are allowed to continue one moment longer than they need to.

‘Their partners have been locked out of scans and hospital rooms, anxiously separated from the people they love most in the world with no idea whether the outcome would be as they hoped, or as they desperately feared.’

Pregnant Tory MP Alicia Kearns organised the letter after her own experience in hospital. Her partner was present at a scan two months ago, and she said it is ‘utterly heart-breaking’ that not all pregnant women could not say the same.

She went on: ‘I can’t imagine having to go through giving birth without my partner. Trusts had the ability to change these rules when we came out of national lockdown, but didn’t.’


Government policy on births has now changed


One woman last week is reported to have given birth to a stillborn baby at 41 weeks without her partner present during labour. A relative said: ‘She is traumatised, even more so as she was alone to hear this news and hold her dead baby.’

The Royal College of Midwives (RCM), the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the Royal College of Anaesthetists all say women should be allowed ‘one birth partner’ by their side during labour in most cases.

Government guidelines published last week state that hospitals can allow partners into scans and appointments. Maternity Minister Nadine Dorries said partners had a ‘vital role to provide emotional support,’ and added that it has been ‘painful to hear stories of women facing difficult moments and conversations alone’.

However, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust still states on its website to ‘not bring anyone to your scan’. Partners can stay for the labour and birth, but will have to leave after the visiting hours of noon to 7 pm.

Similar rules have been put in place in Nottingham University Hospitals, although partners can now attend the routine 12 and 20-week scans.

Liverpool Women’s Hospital operates on a similar policy, stating in their guidelines: ‘There is currently no postnatal ward visiting.’

Professor Mandie Sunderland, chief nurse at Nottingham University Hospitals told the Mail that their guidance was under review and that their ‘priority remains to keep mums and babies safe’. She said their ‘stringent visiting policy’ had so far allowed that to happen.

Imperial College Healthcare Trust said: ‘We are currently reviewing the visiting restrictions. We understand how difficult the current restrictions are and will do all we can to make changes quickly while also ensuring everyone’s safety.’

Andrew Loughney at Liverpool Women’s Hospital, said: ‘Following the recent change in national guidance, we are planning to lift restrictions.’

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