Women in labour are being denied epidurals by NHS hospitals, amid concern that a “cult of natural childbirth” is leaving rising numbers in agony.
Last night, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, promised an investigation, and action to ensure women’s choices were respected, pledging to make the NHS maternity services the world-leader.
An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found hospitals refusing clear requests from mothers-to-be, in breach of official guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).
Mr Hancock said all expectant mothers should be able to make an informed choice, knowing their choice would be fully respected.
“Clinical guidance clearly state that you can ask for pain relief at any time – before and during labour – and as long as it is safe to do so this should never be refused. I’m concerned by evidence that such requests are being denied for anything other than a clinical reason,” he said.
“It's vital this guidance is being followed right across our NHS, as part of making it the best place in the world to give birth. Women being denied pain relief is wrong, and we will be investigating.”
One mother, describing her experience at one NHS Hospital said: "It made me feel unsafe psychologically - I couldn't speak up, I couldn’t say what I wanted to say, I couldn’t advocate for myself medically because people were ignoring or belittling me. It feels that in childbirth, it’s a given that the doctor is taking their personal beliefs with them to the table, whereas in any other area of healthcare that would be unacceptable."
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Source: The Telegraph, 26 January 2020