AIMS recognises that the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is placing an extraordinary burden on the NHS and its staff. We pay tribute to all staff, who we know are being put under great strain by having to work in the most difficult of circumstances, as they work to ensure that the maternity services continue to offer support to all service users, their families and supporters, in line with the Better Births vision.
During the pandemic, AIMS has made a particular effort since March 2020 to ensure that we have focussed our campaigning on what we believe will help achieve Better Births compliant maternity services. We have been working to raise awareness and to lobby those organisations with influence, to create change to recognise the needs of both parents and of their babies.
A key strand of our work has focussed on how the maternity services, especially at the local level, are able to maintain trust with service users, to ensure that the inevitable extra stresses of the pandemic - during pregnancy, labour and birth, and the postnatal period - are minimised.
Throughout the pandemic, AIMS has been campaigning for the needs of maternity service users to be recognised and for NHS Trusts/Boards to ensure that any restrictions they impose are a proportionate response to the pandemic situation. AIMS has argued that changes in maternity services should only be implemented after a full risk assessment, and that these risk assessments should be available for public scrutiny. We have argued that these risk assessments must take full account of the possible impact of restrictions on service users, including clinical outcomes and the physical and mental well being of service users and their families. In this context, we have called for more sharing of good practice across Trusts, noting that Trusts in some areas seem to be taking a more proactive and creative approach to addressing problems, rather than assuming that service restrictions are inevitable.
Similarly, AIMS has argued for an improvement in the arrangements for access to current information about local service provision. In such uncertain times, AIMS believes that easy access to such information can work powerfully to increase trust between providers and service users. There are many steps that Trusts can take to improve practice in this area, and we are pleased to see that good practice is now being shared.
As well as this focus around governance and transparency, we have focused on a small number of specific issues which are being raised most frequently by callers to the AIMS Helpline:
Restrictions which prevent partners or other supporters from attending antenatal appointments or scans, being present for the whole of labour and birth and/or providing support on the postnatal ward
The banning of video calls, or the filming of antenatal appointments or scans, when partners/supporters are prevented from attending in person.
The removal of support for homebirths and the closure of birth centres
Restrictions on parents’ involvement when their baby is in a neonatal unit
Restrictions on waterbirths
Confusion around information about induction in the context of the pandemic
We have developed resources for maternity service users including our information page Coronavirus and your maternity care, and template letters which they can adapt and send to their Trust/Board to ask for their support needs to be met Template Letters to request support during the coronavirus pandemic and Booking a Homebirth. We also created template letters for birth activists to use in their local campaigning on these issues Template Campaigning Letters about Maternity Services during the pandemic.
AIMS is keen to work with others to achieve our campaigning objectives. Towards the end of 2020, AIMS was key in bringing together a group of charities and other organisations to campaign about restrictions on partner/supporter attendance. This alliance now includes representatives from Birthrights, #Butnotmaternity, Birth Trauma Association, Doula UK, The Fatherhood Institute, Make Birth Better and Pregnant Then Screwed.
AIMS will continue to campaign on these issues. Our campaigning relies on our Volunteers and you can find out more about volunteering with AIMS here.
You can find our lobbying material as follows:
AIMS' evidence to the Health and Social Care Select Committee
AIMS comments on RCOG - Restoration and Recovery: priorities for obstetrics and gynaecology June 2020
AIMS Press release Almost Half of NHS Trusts Force Pregnant Women to Attend Vital Maternity Services Alone October 2020
Letter to NHSE from the But Not Maternity Alliance asking for for clearer guidance on lifting partner restrictions October 2020
AIMS Letter to the Society of Radiographers asking them to review their guidance on partners and supporters at scans November 2020
AIMS supports all maternity service users to navigate the system as it exists, and campaigns for a system which truly meets the needs of all.
The AIMS Campaigns Team relies on Volunteers to carry out its work. If you would like to collaborate with us, are looking for further information about our work, or would like to join our team, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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