Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust says that from tomorrow (21 September) 2020, partners can accompany women at their 20wks scan appointment.
In a statement issued on Friday (18 September), the Trust said this would apply to both Bedford and L&D Hospitals.
“We understand the anxieties and additional stress the current visiting restrictions are having on our maternity patients,” said the statement.
“As such we are working hard with maternity teams and partner organisations to identify how we can further ease restrictions, allowing a partner to be present for more antenatal and postnatal appointments.”
While there were restrictions on partners attending scans, the trust says that a birthing partner has always been able to be in the delivery room during established labour and/or caesarean section.
They hope to soon re-introduce the chance for one partner to be present for all stages of labour and inductions of labour once women start to experience contractions.
“Restricted visiting to maternity wards are also within our discussions to introduce as soon as it is safe to do so,” they added.
Liz Lees, Chief Nurse at Bedfordshire Hospitals said: “It’s completely understandable for pregnant women to be feeling anxious about having a baby in hospital at this current time of a global health pandemic.
“We know it can be terrifying and we do respect and acknowledge everyone’s concerns around restrictions in place.
“This is why no decision we make is taken lightly and weekly reviews and monitoring are taking place to assess the situation.
“We appreciate that some women and their families will be disappointed that we’re unable to ease the restrictions further at this time, but the safety of our patients and staff has to be our priority. These measures are in place to keep everyone safe.”
While he welcomed the news, Cllr Graeme Coombes, Bedford’s Conservative group leader, said it’s a shame the Trust isn’t following the national NHS framework.
“There is clearly a delicate balancing act to be done here, but I would also very much welcome more support for women facing induction and intimate examinations on their own,” he said.
“I understand that these are often short but invasive and potentially painful procedures, when many women feel the benefit of having their birth partner present at this time.
“Further information on why Bedford Hospital is currently operating differently to the NHS’ national framework, would be beneficial for families to at least be able to understand why the rules are different in Bedford, though I do hope that we align with the national framework soon.”
Explaining why the restrictions were put in place during the pandemic, the trust pointed to Public Health England data showing that Bedford and Luton has higher rates of infection.
“When there are higher incidences of COVID cases locally we have to be extremely careful about lifting visiting restrictions,” continued the Trust’s spokesperson.
“We need to limit the footfall on both hospital sites to not only protect patients but to also protect our staff, keep them well so they can continue to provide safe and essential quality patient care.
“We constantly risk assess and review restrictions (as per maternity visitors guidelines) by understanding local incidence rates, and the environment of both hospital sites to ensure we can safely deliver high quality care whilst keeping women and families safe,” they said.