New NHS England FAQs on use of lateral flow antigen tests in maternity services

Guidance updated on supporting pregnant people

Published: 27 April 2021 Government & NHS

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSei) has updated the guidance document ‘Supporting pregnant women using maternity services during the coronavirus pandemic: Actions for NHS providers – 15 April 2021’, including information on the use of lateral flow tests for pregnant women/pregnant people and their support person. 

There is also a supporting document ‘Lateral flow antigen test for pregnant women and support people: Frequently asked questions’. Local Trusts may want to implement lateral flow tests in addition to other ways of mitigating risk.
Key points for the use of lateral flow test include:

  • Risk assessments should be carried out to determine whether it is safe for a support person to be in attendance. Where possible changes should be implemented to reduce risks.
  • Local communication mechanisms should be in place to advise expectant parents of the processes in place to provide a safe environment for everyone, including them and their baby.
  • Self-administer a Covid-19 lateral flow test 24 hours before an appointment for both parties. It does not state in this guidance, but policy in other areas can be considered e.g. NICE ‘Covid-19 rapid guideline: arranging planned care in hospitals and diagnostic services’ recommend self-isolating from the day of the test until the appointment.
  • Tests are voluntary but should be encouraged (if used within the maternity department).
  • Both the pregnant person and support person should confirm results upon arrival at the Trust (taken within the previous 24 hour period).
  • Processes should be in place for local testing for those without access to digital technology.
  • If a woman declines the test – normal mitigations should be in place eg face coverings, adequate ventilation, hand hygiene.
  • If a support person declines and the mitigations are already in place to reduce risk they can attend, eg face coverings, adequate ventilation, hand hygiene and social distancing. If it is not possible to manage risk with other mitigations they will be unable to accompany the pregnant person.
  • Individual risk assessments should take place when a negative test cannot be produced.
  • All relevant staff should be aware of the local policy, including security staff.
  • Information is provided for anyone testing positive (see NHS FAQs).

It is important that sonographers are involved in local risk assessments and develop local policies and communication mechanisms based on this guidance. As more information is available about airborne spread of Covid-19, risk assessments must include ventilation and air circulation, particularly as more people would be in attendance. Mitigations should be in place for the safety of all parties. The Covid-19 FAQs for sonographers have been updated on the SoR webpages.
If there are concerns about not being heard, the local ‘freedom to speak up’ process can be used, along with highlighting issues via local clinical governance routes and to your local SoR trained TUIR representative.
The SoR have highlighted the challenges faced by sonographers to colleagues at NHSei and have been advised to remind all sonographers working in the NHS to report any incidents of verbal, physical or social media abuse on DATIX, to develop a better understanding of the frequency of these incidents.