New ‘stepwise’ approach to allow partners back into antenatal appointments

Guidance published by NHS England and NHS Improvement

Published: 09 September 2020 Obstetrics and Gynaecology

The SCoR continues to receive enquiries from sonographers, parents and other healthcare professionals about enabling a partner or accompanying adult into antenatal ultrasound scan appointments.

Now NHS England and NHS Improvement have produced a briefing document, in consultation with the RCOG, RCM and SCoR, giving guidance on reintroducing adult visitors into antenatal and postnatal in/outpatient settings. This document should enable maternity services to risk assess all maternity care and determine appropriate safety requirements for the reintroduction of an adult partner for appointments across the maternity service.

We recognise that our highly skilled and professional sonographers are already in short supply and have kept the antenatal services running throughout the pandemic, with many having been affected by the virus themselves. We would like to thank sonographers and other healthcare professionals for continuing to provide a safe and effective antenatal ultrasound service in addition to a wide range of non-obstetric services under challenging circumstances.

SCoR officers have been working with colleagues to share sonographer concerns in relation to risk assessments for the reintroduction of a single accompanying adult to obstetric scans. We have been discussing factors such as room size, ability to enable physical distancing for the partner, examination times, capacity within waiting rooms and ventilation.

In addition the SCoR has been expressing the importance of a consistent approach to the re-introduction of partners to all maternity outpatient services, as ultrasound is just one of a number of important clinical appointments during antenatal care.

What can you do?
Sharing local policy decisions and information within appointment advice is likely to be the optimal way to disseminate information about how local decisions have been made.
Provide links to national guidance where possible, in relation to infection prevention and control. That would enable local service users to understand the decision-making process relevant to your facilities, including small scan rooms, ventilation issues, social distancing, scan time and local Covid-19 prevalence rates.    

NHS England and NHS Improvement (2020). Framework to assist NHS trusts to reintroduce access for partners, visitors and other supporters of pregnant women in English maternity services.[Download the PDF]