Bliss research shows devastating impact on bonding with their baby when parents are locked out of neonatal care due to COVID-19 restrictions
Since the start of the pandemic, Bliss has been highlighting the impact of restricted parental access to neonatal units through its Parents aren’t visitors campaign, and has been calling for a national directive to support a return to unrestricted access for parents with babies in neonatal care. An update to Guidance from NHS England on supporting women using maternity services during COVID-19, issued in December 2020, included recommendations for neonatal services for the first time.
We have recently published the report “Locked Out: The Impact of COVID-19 on Neonatal Care”, which includes results of a survey of over 500 parents of neonatal babies born between March 2020 to February 2021, as well as findings from a survey of 70 NHS England Trusts. This shows that despite easing of national COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, many parents of neonatal babies continue to face significant challenges in spending time with their premature or sick baby in their critical first days and weeks of life, which is affecting bonding and attachment as well as parental mental health.
Bryony, from East London, gave birth to her son in July 2020, after which he spent nearly three weeks in NICU.
Bryony said: “Things had become very grave, resulting in several blood transfusions and maximum life support. My husband and I took it in turns to see our son. One day at the hospital, followed by the next day at home looking after our two-year-old daughter. When I was at home, I was fraught with anxiety, and when it was my day to visit our son, I felt completely numb. We lived from phone call to consultant round, it was so frightening not being able to be there together.”
Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive at Bliss, commented: “Bliss is calling on NHS England and the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Governments to publish a National Roadmap setting out how neonatal units will return to usual family access as a matter of urgency, and to work with NHS Trusts to implement it consistently across the country. Our smallest and sickest babies need their parents at their side to give them the best chance of survival and quality of life.”
If your baby was born premature or sick and you need information or support at any time visit bliss.org.uk