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Maternity units must only remove gas and air as a ‘last resort’

Hospital trusts must only remove gas and air on maternity wards as a “last resort”, NHS England has said.

Several hospitals temporarily suspended the use of gas and air following concerns that midwives and staff are being exposed to too-high levels of gas over prolonged periods of time.

Some pregnant women have posted on social media, saying the decisions have left them feeling anxious and worried about their pain relief options.

Some NHS trusts have also come under fire for the way they communicated the message that gas and air would be suspended.

In new guidance to trusts, NHS England said it had looked at the health impacts for staff of levels of nitrous oxide exceeding prescribed levels, “drawing upon relevant legislation and existing guidance on the safe management of gas and air in healthcare settings”.

It said trusts must ensure they are compliant with legislation and national guidance on the use of gas, but must only remove it for women as a last resort and must tell them about other pain relief.

“Where, following the meeting of the (medical gas) committee, there is concern that the trust is not compliant, then this should be formally reported by the trust to the NHS England regional operations centre for the attention of the regional chief midwife,” the guidance said.

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Source: The Independent, 3 March 2023


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