Partner access to maternity services

From tomorrow, Thursday 24 December, the partners (or named supporter) of women admitted to the postnatal inpatient ward at Southmead Hospital will be able to visit them on the ward. Each partner will be allocated a visiting slot between 9am – 9pm and will be required to have a negative coronavirus test before visiting the ward.

From January 2021 – conditional on no further government coronavirus restrictions being announced – the partner (or named supporter) will also be able to accompany women when they attend for their anomaly ultrasound scan (usually at 20 weeks). The intention is for this to be in place from Monday 4 January and partners will need to wear the PPE provided to attend.

Pregnant women can already bring a partner or named supporter to their first trimester scan (12 week) and some specialist scans for fetal medicine, as well as to accompany them during induction, labour and birth. From tomorrow, partners attending for labour will also need to be tested on arrival.

Women will still need to attend antenatal appointments and the Antenatal Assessment Unit alone, although their birth partner will be invited in (with appropriate PPE) by the senior midwife if necessary. Women admitted to the antenatal ward will also not be able to receive visitors for the time being. Exceptions can continue to be made in circumstances where it is appropriate to do so, such as when women require additional compassionate support.

These changes reflect new national guidance and the continued commitment to ensuring women feel supported throughout their pregnancy, but also the reality that coronavirus cases are continuing to rise in our community and our hospital.

Helen Blanchard, Director of Nursing and Quality, said:

“We know how difficult visiting restrictions have been for pregnant women and their families – and we understand that these changes do not go as far as some would like – but in these unprecedented times protecting mums, babies and our staff from coronavirus is our top priority.

“With the introduction of several new safety measures, we are now in a position to balance keeping people safe from the risk of infection with allowing pregnant women to access the love and support of their partners at more stages of their maternity journey.

“However, to keep families and our staff safe, I would ask that partners or named supporters  be prepared to do things differently, including wearing PPE when attending for scans and taking coronavirus tests to access inpatient wards.

“I want to thank staff, patients and their families for their continued support in these unprecedented times”.

All partners attending maternity services must be free of coronavirus symptoms and must not be self-isolating. If the intended birth partner tests positive for Covid-19 they will not be able to stay for the birth and will have to go home to self-isolate. In such circumstances, women will be able to invite in an alternative birth partner from a different household.