Changes to maternity unit visitor ban at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital mean partners can attend 12-week scans
- Credit: Dan Wilson
Pregnant women will no longer be forced to attend their 12-week antenatal scan alone at Stevenage’s Lister Hospital, with restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic changing from Monday.
In April the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust enforced a no visitor policy at Lister’s maternity unit - with the exception of one named birth partner during labour - in a bid to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
The restrictions led to a petition signed by hundreds of people, with concerns surrounding pregnant women attending scans, assessments and triage alone, as well as fathers being denied the opportunity to bond with their newborn baby on the postnatal ward.
The rules were slightly relaxed in the autumn, to allow for instance a pregnant woman to take one named person to her 20-week anomaly scan.
From Monday, one named person will also be allowed to attend the 12-week dating scan.
Rachael Corser, chief nurse at the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and senior responsible officer for the Hertfordshire and West Essex Local Maternity and Neonatal System, said: “We have been continually reviewing our visiting restrictions. Our biggest challenge is how we can accommodate partners or family members while keeping the women and babies in our care safe, and ensuring a safe working environment for our staff.”
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Addressing Lister’s maternity patients directly, she said: “Due to the availability of space to support social distancing, we currently support you to be accompanied by one nominated person to your anomaly scan.
"From Monday we will also support you to be accompanied by one nominated person to your dating scan. Again, there is adequate spacing for social distancing, which ensures the safety of both our patients and our staff.
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“Please can we request that you do not contact the maternity unit to rearrange scans as the timing of scans will directly impact the screening choices available to you, and we do not have availability of appointments to reorganise scans on this basis.”
Other scans, such as growth scans, as well as antenatal appointments, must continue to be unaccompanied.
The no visitor policy for the antenatal and postnatal inpatient services also remains in place. Rachael said: “We have reviewed and updated the risk assessments for our inpatient areas in light of the current circumstances and the region being subject to Tier 4 restrictions. Unfortunately, due to these circumstances, we are not currently in a position to make changes to our restrictions in these areas.
“Screens have been ordered for the antenatal ward, which will be placed between the bed spaces to offer further protection and help enable us to ensure women are able to be accompanied once the regional restrictions are reduced.
“Screens are not as suitable for the postnatal ward as there is less space between the beds. Interval slots for visiting are being reviewed in order to enable an opportunity for one nominated companion to spend some time with you and your baby during your stay on the ward.”
She added: “Our maternity team is acutely aware of the effect these restrictions may have on women and families, and are here to provide support every step of the way.
“When the tier level restrictions within the region change, we will immediately take steps to review our risk assessments to make prompt and proportionate adjustments to the maternity restrictions currently in place.
“In addition to this, we are reviewing options moving forward to provide partner testing to confirm whether they have COVID-19 prior to admission. Once we have identified suitable options for this, the risk assessments will be reviewed to enable further adjustments to the restrictions.”