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Why are hospitals still using Covid rules to keep fathers out of maternity wards?

At 9.16am Florence Wilkinson gave birth to a healthy baby boy by planned caesarean section. The team of NHS doctors and midwives worked like a well-oiled machine, performing what to them was a standard operation, while also showing real kindness. After a short stint in a close observation bay, Florence was moved onto the postnatal ward. Still anaesthetised, Florence was completely reliant on her partner Ben to help her recover from the birth and feed her son in his first hours of life.

Yet just a few hours later, the scene was very different. Due to Covid protocol, Ben was not able to stay overnight. 

At 8pm, midwives bustled around briskly ejecting fathers and birth partners from the ward – and what followed was one of the hardest, most frightening nights of Florence's life. She was alone with a newborn, yet during the course of that night she only saw a midwife once. She was still recovering from my operation and unable to pick up her baby. An exhausted healthcare assistant told Florence she didn’t have time to help and the newborn didn’t feed for seven hours. There simply weren’t enough staff to look after the mothers, but no partner to advocate for them either.

A review of the maternity policies listed on the websites of 90 hospital trusts in England reveals that 54% still restrict partners from staying overnight after birth. While a few trusts have always limited access at night, many admit to bringing in restrictions during the pandemic which they continue to implement to this day. 

“It is deeply concerning to hear that some Trusts are continuing to implement restrictions on visiting, such as limited postnatal visiting overnight, under the premise of Covid, particularly at this stage in the pandemic,” says Francesca Treadaway, director of engagement at the charity Birthrights. “There is overwhelming evidence, built up since March 2020, of the impact Covid restrictions in maternity had on women giving birth. It must be remembered that blanket policies are rarely lawful and any policies implemented should explicitly consider people’s individual circumstances.”

Read full story (paywalled)

Source: The Telegraph, 13 October 2022



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