Pregnant women are stuck on wards alone again as hospital trust bans partners amid surging Omicron cases
- Princess Alexandra Hospital said women will have to attend appointments alone
- They said the change was in response to the revised Government restrictions
- Last night MPs and campaigners warned trusts not to reverse progress made
Pregnant women are being forced to attend appointments alone again as hospitals bring back draconian restrictions following the surge of Omicron cases.
The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Harlow, Essex, announced last week that women would have to attend all antenatal appointments alone.
Support partners were also banned from attending its Maternal and Foetal Assessment Unit, aimed at women over 22 weeks pregnant who have developed complications.
The trust said the change was in response to the revised Government restrictions.
Last night MPs and campaigners warned trusts not to reverse progress made following The Mail on Sunday’s Lone Births campaign.
Pregnant women are being forced to attend appointments alone again as hospitals bring back draconian restrictions following the surge of Omicron cases (stock image)
Tory Alicia Kearns said: ‘No, no, no. I cannot understand how any NHS Trust has failed to learn the lessons of the past two years. Partners are not “nice to haves” – they are advocates who improve outcomes for mum and baby, and they are equal partners in pregnancy, labour and the raising of children.
‘Women and their households should be treated as a bubble and this hysterical and ridiculous restriction is another symptom of the too-often broken bureaucracy of the NHS.’
NHS guidance makes it clear that partners should be allowed to attend appointments at ‘all stages’ of pregnancy.
However, trusts are still allowed to impose their own policies. After being contacted by The Mail on Sunday, the Princess Alexandra reversed its decision.
Last week, other hospitals across England also cut the number of support people pregnant women could have in labour and scans from two or more to one.
It is the first time pregnant women have faced renewed restrictions since the spring, when all hospitals changed their policy to end bans on women having their partners present.
The change came after an eight-month campaign by The Mail on Sunday highlighting the plight of women being forced to give birth and attend traumatic scans alone.
Many trusts were accused of ‘dragging their feet’ and refusing to allow access, despite calls to do so from the Government, NHS England and campaigners.
They were told to find ‘creative solutions’ to ensure women had support at all stages of pregnancy.
Joeli Brearley, of the Pregnant Then Screwed campaign group, said: ‘We have the data and the testimonials which demonstrate the trauma these restrictions inflict on women.
The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust (pictured) in Harlow, Essex, announced last week that women would have to attend all antenatal appointments alone
‘We know outcomes for women and their babies are better when they have a birth partner with them for appointments and labour. Why, in almost two years, have we not found a solution to this issue?
‘We understand the pressure hospitals are under because of Omicron, but forcing women to go through any stage of labour on their own is not the answer. For once in this pandemic, could we consider the needs of pregnant women?’
Abbi Leibert, of the But Not Maternity campaign group, called the decision ‘hugely disheartening’, saying: ‘Considering the amount of research showing the detrimental effects of maternity restrictions on the mental and physical health of new families, it’s beyond me how such restrictions can be imposed again anywhere.’
Health Minister Maria Caulfield said: ‘Partners, friends and relatives provide essential emotional and physical support for mothers during pregnancy.
‘Mothers should feel reassured that they can continue to have a partner beside them. I want to thank The Mail on Sunday for highlighting this issue.’
An NHS spokesman said: ‘National guidance on partners attending antenatal appointments has not changed.’ But he added visits to wards were up to individual trusts.
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