Despite Government guidance permitting partners or loved ones to attend both scans and the entirety of labour, during the COVID-19 pandemic many NHS Trusts around the country forced expectant mothers to attend important scans, miscarriages and labour alone.
That is why I launched a national campaign to make sure every Trust did right by pregnant women and their partners, and ensured women had support at all pregnancy scans and all stages of labour. To kick off my campaign I was pleased to have the support of 60 Conservative MPs in calling on every Trust in the country to update their policies in line with Government guidance and I launched the campaign with the Mail on Sunday, Pregnant Then Screwed and Birth Better.
I secured the backing of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Health Secretary Matt Hancock for my campaign who called on all NHS Trusts to adopt Government guidance.
Pregnant myself during the pandemic, I had been enormously lucky that my NHS Trust had changed its procedures immediately when lockdown ended, so my husband attended all scans for our baby. But I led this campaign because it was unjust that women in so much of the country including Rutland and Melton did not have the same support from their loved ones, and to fight for the partners locked out of hospital rooms anxiously separated from those they love most in the world.
NEWS May 2021: Every hospital in England is finally allowing pregnant women to have their partner at their side.
I'm delighted to announce that following my campaign, every hospital in England is finally allowing pregnant women to have their partner at their side.
Over the past eight months, since local mums to be came to me for help, I’ve fought NHS Trusts across England one at a time to change their policies, with the Mail on Sunday backing my campaign with Pregnant Then Screwed and Birth Better.
Thank you to all the brave women and their partners who shared their experiences with me, the campaigners and the Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Prime Minister Boris Johnson who backed my campaign to make NHS Trusts follow Government guidance from the start.
Update May 2021: Five NHS Trusts Continue to Refuse to Allow Partners
I'm deeply disappointed that five NHS Trusts continue to force women to go through pregnancy scans on their own. It is an utter disgrace that some NHS trusts still believe they can justify forcing women to go through scans or miscarriages alone. It is verging on the criminal.
Our clinicians are vaccinated and a quarter of all UK adults have had both vaccines, so there is no excuse. Thankfully, the vast majority of NHS trusts have seen sense, and I'm so relieved our campaign has saved so many families from unnecessary trauma.
Update February 2021: Partners Save Lives
Devastatingly, a new report by the Health and Safety Executive has concluded that COVID rules imposed by NHS Trusts that continue to ban partners from attending labour and scans are linked to maternal deaths. Given the significant vaccination of NHS clinicians it is unconscionable for any NHS Trust to still be imposing draconian and dangerous restrictions on partners supporting mothers during labour or scans – to save lives they must all adopt the Government guidance, now
Update January 2021: COVID-19 Debate
In a debate in Parliament today I raised the plight of those women still forced to undergo scans, miscarriages and labour alone.
NEWS December 2020: New NHS England Guidance Issued
I am delighted that after months of campaigning NHS England has now (December) issued new guidance to NHS Trusts on ensuring partners are able to support women throughout their pregnancies.
NHS England is now asking Trusts to adopt three simple steps:
1) Undertake an appropriate risk assessment in each part of their maternity service,
2) Make creative changes to the configuration of all maternity spaces where appropriate, to ensure mothers can have their support person attend, and
3) Use available testing capacity (eg PCR, rapid PCR testing, or lateral flow testing) to test women and their support person to help mitigate infection risks, in particular for:
- Scan appointments
- Fetal medicine appointments
- At birth
- And for parents whose babies require neonatal care
Women should not be refused access to asymptomatic partners while test results are pending and where appropriate infection control can be maintained.
The guidance also states that women should have access to support at all times during their maternity journey and Trusts should facilitate this, while keeping the risk of transmission within NHS maternity services as low as possible. Including making sure that the woman can safely take a support person to:
- Early pregnancy unit
- All antenatal scans
- Labour and birth from the point of attendance at the hospital or midwifery unit
- As well as, those who are admitted for early pregnancy loss, on the antenatal or postnatal ward in line with pre-COVID Trust policies
I am very relieved to see this new guidance issued as I have been calling for NHS England to leave NHS Trusts in no doubt that they should be doing all they can to ensure partners are present at all scans and all stages of labour, and that the rapid tests made available to all Trusts by the Government be used for both mother and their support person.
There is no excuse for women to be labouring alone, losing a baby with no support or finding out the worst news alone at a scan. These measures will keep clinicians safe and reduce the trauma of women across our country.
The Guidance is available in full here: https://bit.ly/3gPYeyt
Update December 2020: Women Facing Unacceptable Decisions
After months calling for NHS England to issue clear guidance to NHS Trusts, I’m so relieved, but angry it has taken so long leaving too many women and their partners to suffer. There is no excuse for women to be labouring alone, losing a baby with no support or finding out the worst news alone at a scan. These measures will keep clinicians safe and reduce the trauma of women across our country.
NEWS October 2020: COVID-19 Lateral Flow Tests to be Prioritised for Maternity
In a victory for our campaign, Lateral Flow Tests will be prioritised for maternity, cancer, paediatric and end of life settings in hospitals. This will give increased confidence to clinicians to ensure women can have their partners with them.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: 'We will roll out quick turnaround tests in special clinical settings so those going through cancer treatment, women giving birth, those in paediatric settings can have their loved ones around them. They will be able to be tested on entry to make sure their treatments, labour and visits can be done as safely as possible and the risk of infection in hospitals is minimised. No woman should go through labour alone, which is why we will use testing to give women and their partners the support they need. I commend those who are tirelessly campaigning on this issue, including The Mail on Sunday and Alicia Kearns.'
Discussing this on Talk Radio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDhWFWDvL44
NEWS October 2020: Less Than a Third of NHS Trusts Continue to Impose Restrictions
It's a big relief to announce that less than a third of NHS Trusts are now imposing restrictions on maternity partners, but I'll keep fighting to get this to zero.
I welcomed this news on BBC World Tonight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yH_3L2dcso4
Update September 2020: Talk Radio's Julia Hartley Brewer Weighs in on the Campaign
Julia is determined to eradicate these unacceptable restrictions, and has given her full backing to the campaign: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZPhUjH49_8
NEWS September 2020: Prime Minister Backs My Campaign
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: 'No woman should have to go through labour alone'.
NEWS September 2020: Health Secretary Backs My Campaign
I'm delighted to have secured the support of the Health Secretary - watch him back my campaign here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7_Y9WvFcjLs
NEWS September 2020: I Launch My Campaign to End Lone Births Scandal
Thousands of women are enduring the ‘unimaginable anguish’ of having to give birth alone due to draconian COVID-19 rules imposed by NHS Trusts. That's why I've launched today a campaign with the Mail on Sunday to bring an end to these unacceptable restrictions.
More than 60 MPs are backing my campaign, demanding NHS Trusts lift their ban on partners at the bedside during births, which has left many women ‘devastated’.