In recent weeks, hundreds of people have contacted our advice line with serious concerns about their maternity care. If you have questions or concerns about your care you can see answers to some of the most common questions on our Coronavirus FAQ. You can request advice about your rights in maternity care here.
We have been working throughout the pandemic to track issues that women and maternity professionals are experiencing, and to raise these with Trusts and policy makers. There has been an exemplary response to the crisis by many NHS Trusts. They have rapidly adjusted in very difficult circumstances to provide women and birthing people with continued access to safe and supportive maternity care that respects their choices.
However there has been an inconsistent, disproportionate and inhumane response by some NHS Trusts, and we have seen a number of Trusts making unlawful blanket decisions without taking into account women’s individual circumstances. We have been particularly concerned about the following issues through the pandemic:
- Suspension of maternity services, including home birth and midwifery-led birth centres
- Permitting birth partners to support women during labour, but also exceptions to wider hospital visitor restrictions at other times on a case by case basis.
- Restricted access to pain relief such as water
- Restricted access to maternal request caesareans
- Loss of continuity of care and the wider impact of COVID on women from BAME communities and other marginalised groups
Birthrights is working hard to address these issues and to champion respectful care during pregnancy and birth by protecting human rights during the pandemic. You can read more about our call for all women to receive safe, respectful and compassionate care during Coronavirus in our March 2020 statement and in our responses to relevant Parliamentary inquiries below.
Correspondence with Trusts
Birthrights works to empower individuals contacting our advice line, Maternity Voices Partnerships and others with an interest, with the information they need to assess and challenge local decisions where appropriate. However where necessary we also write to Trusts and Local Maternity Systems and other organisations directly. The table below lists our correspondence with Trusts and others.
|28/5||Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust||Policy of birth partners needing to be from the same household meaning some women have to give birth without a birth companion.||Response awaited.|
|28/5||East Cheshire||Suspension of home birth service for at least six months without investigating alternative options||Response awaited|
|12/05||NHS Lothian||Vaginal examinations being used to assess whether woman can be admitted and can be joined by partner – concern over women feeling coerced to accept VE. Home birth service still not been reinstated.||Response awaited.|
|12/05||Milton Keynes University Hospitals||Letter sent re: withdrawal of maternal request caesarean across LMS.||Response received saying decision is likely to be reversed from 1st June. Replied to Trust questioning logic of original decision and meeting with RCOG to discuss.|
|23/04||Cheshire and Merseyside Local Maternity System||Withdrawal of home birth services. Letter here.||Response awaited although we understand LMS wide ban has been reversed and some Trusts have reinstated home birth services.|
|23/04||NHS England||Letter sent on transparency of decision making during coronavirus.||Response received. Meeting with NHSE in June to discuss further.|
|22/04||Society of Radiographers and British Medical Ultrasound Society||Guidance that recommends not allowing partners to video conference into scans. Birthrights sent joint letter with National Maternity Voices, Sands, the Twins Trust and ARC||Response received. Slightly revised guidance has been published since letter was sent. Raised with NHSE.|
|20/04||Brighton & Sussex||Separation of babies in neonatal unit from their parents if baby needs respiratory support even if parents don’t have COVID||Policy on separation reviewed – only babies with respiratory symptoms that are unexplained and could be COVID are isolated. Bliss sharing best practice with Trusts.|
|14/04||Guernsey||Withdrawal of home birth services without full explanation||Still awaiting response|
|11/04||Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells||Birth partners required to be from same household meaning some women give birth alone||Trusts are currently reviewing this policy|
|11/04||Greater Glasgow and Clyde||Withdrawal of home birth without investigating option of Independent Midwives||Response to say home birth service will be reinstated as soon as staffing allows, and that IM option has now been looked at. Birthrights will continue to monitor|
|10/04||Borders, Scotland||Ban on birth partners in theatre (due to higher risk given set up of hospital)||Partners are now being allowed in for all caesareans.|
|09/04||Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow||Letter sent out to women about cancellation of maternal request caesareans||Responded to say that letter should have said this was only a possibility, and that no caesareans have been cancelled .|
|07/03||Shrewsbury & Telford||Not offering contracts to Independent Midwives||Responded to say that this is now under consideration|
|30/03||Doncaster||Ban on birth partners in theatre||Ban reversed on 31st March|
|26/03||Northwick Park||Ban on birth partners||Northwick Park changed policy on 28th March|
We have submitted evidence to Parliamentary inquiries examining the Coronavirus response: