Protecting human rights in childbirth

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Partners should be able to join maternity scans remotely say lawyers

Birthrights has received legal advice stating that maternity services which prevent partners from attending scans, and don’t allow partners to be involved in the appointment remotely, may be acting unlawfully and unreasonably.

Legal advice commissioned by Birthrights, and prepared with Shu Shin Luh of Doughty Street Chambers with support from Irwin Mitchell concludes that “a blanket prohibition on the use of streaming or recording during antenatal appointments in circumstances where the support partner is unable to attend in-person with a pregnant woman is likely to be unlawful, discriminatory and violate both Articles 8 and 14” of the European Convention on Human Rights. 

It makes clear that “there is a well-established body of clinical evidence showing that partner participation in antenatal appointments and through a woman’s pregnancy improves maternal and foetal health.” However the clinical nature of partner participation appears to have been ignored or disregarded in the Statement from the Society and College of Radiographers (SCoR), the British Medical Ultrasounds Society (BMUS), the Royal College of Obstetricians (RCOG) and the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) and none of the reasons listed in the Statement provide an adequate basis for outweighing this clinical benefit. Furthermore “providing a woman with a 10-30 second clip of the scan does not fully address the clinical importance of facilitating proper patient participation.” 

The advice goes on to say that NHS organisations who have simply adopted the Society and College of Radiographer’s recommendation as a hard and fast rule, will have acted unlawfully by failing to take into account all “relevant and available evidence” that they are required to address when formulating a policy on this matter. 

Maria Booker, Programmes Director, Birthrights said: “We have written to the Society and College of Radiographers, and to Public Health Wales who have adopted the SCoR’s position, to share this legal advice and ask them to review their policies immediately. National guidance says that maternity services should be accommodating partners in person. If this is impossible for an individual maternity service at the moment, it is a small ask to enable partners to attend or be involved remotely instead, and yet it can mean the world to those affected .”

Update: the Society and College of Radiographers confirmed on the 11th February that all their guidance relating to filming or scans has been archived.

Research from Pregnant then Screwed

The advice coincides with a survey carried out by our friends at Pregnant then Screwed, which showed that more than half (52%) of those who attended scans alone were also told that they couldn’t record the appointment. 

The research conducted last week (closed on 28th January), with 3,450 pregnant women, found of those who attended scans alone and asked whether they were or weren’t allowed to take photographs, 52% said they were not allowed.

Joeli Brearley, founder and CEO of Pregnant Then Screwed comments; “Our research clearly shows that many pregnant women are attending scans alone and are also being told they cannot document their scan so they can share the experience with their birth partner. This feels unnecessarily cruel. The legal position is clear, it is not illegal to take photographs and videos and for many this is a vital way to help their partner feel included and retain information at this incredibly stressful time.”

Next steps

Please let us know if your local Trust/Board does not allow filming or streaming of scan appointments so that we can write to them. You can also use this template letter to write to your local Trust or Board directly.

This is the letter we have sent to individual Trusts/Boards and this is the list of Trusts/Boards we have written to. If your Trust does not allow filming or streaming of scan appointments and you would like us to write please do contact us at advice@birthrights.org.uk

5 thoughts on “Partners should be able to join maternity scans remotely say lawyers”

  1. Have you assessed every individual scan room and waiting room to see if these meet social distancing guidelines and current Covid lockdown restrictions? No Trust is trying to shut out partners but are trying to find a middle ground where they can be involved, safely, in the woman’s antenatal care and maintain a service – the maternity service is only possible if staff are there to provide the care.

    • Hi Tabatha The advice is about partners being allowed to be present at the end of the phone. There is no threat to sonographers health in allowing this.

  2. My Trust (Buckinghamshire) aren’t allowing any filming and are taking a really long time in updating their policies – we are still at the bare minimum. Having lost our little girl at 28 weeks back in September this pregnancy has been incredibly difficult (13 weeks) and I just don’t feel like they are taking mine or my husbands mental health into consideration. I don’t sleep for a week before my ultrasounds!!!

    • Hi Robyn I am so sorry to hear about your loss. I’m sure this must be pregnancy must be very difficult. Even if Bucks is not allowing partners into scans (and they should be able to give you a good explanation of why this is the case and what they are doing to address it) they should be making an exception for you and your husband given your previous loss. If this is not the case please contact us on advice@birthrights.org.uk so we can help.


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