Virtual antenatal clinics
In the current COVID-19 pandemic, a move towards virtual appointments has been vital. This article discusses the implementation of virtual antenatal clinics and the associated challenges
The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in immense system pressures for maternity departments across the UK. Pregnant women were quickly recognised as a high-risk group who should be shielding (NHS UK, 2020; Poon et al, 2020), which posed a question around the delivery of routine antenatal care.
In the UK, antenatal care consists of between 7–10 appointments for a low-risk woman throughout her pregnancy, depending on if she is multipara or primipara (National Institute of Health and Care Excellent, 2009; Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2020).
For high-risk women, this can be double or triple that number of visits to hospital or to their community midwife. With increased specialisation of care, pregnant women may also attend numerous specialist clinics, depending on their risk stratification. They may also need ultrasound scans, blood tests, blood pressure checks or vaccinations. Therefore, the COVID-19 pandemic called for a rapid transformation to virtual antenatal clinics, which aligns with the NHS long-term plan to reduce face-to-face consultations by a third over the next three years (NHS UK, 2019). Virtual antenatal clinics have not been widely explored, but an American study reported high patient satisfaction compared to face-to-face consultations (Pflugeisen et al, 2017; van den Heuvel et al, 2018). In this article, the setting up of an operational virtual antenatal care service in a tertiary obstetric care centre is presented, and recommendations for maternity departments across the UK and beyond are discussed.
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