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Experiences of maternity care during the COVID-19 pandemic in the North of England

02 September 2021
16 min read
Volume 29 · Issue 9

Abstract

Background

During 2020, UK maternity services made changes to service delivery in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Aims

To explore service users' and their partners' experiences of maternity services in the North of England during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods

Respondents (n=606) completed a co-produced survey during August 2020. Data were analysed using descriptive statistics and content analysis.

Findings

Five major categories were identified: valuing support from health professionals, feeling lost in and let down by the system, the impact of restrictions to partners and others, virtual contact is not the same as in-person contact, and the need for emotional and psychological wellbeing support.

Conclusion

The changes implemented may have compromised mental health and wellbeing in a critical period of vulnerability. Bringing stakeholders together can maximise learning from the emergency measures, to better inform future service provision. Work is needed to better hear from minoritised groups and ensure they are not further marginalised by changes.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on almost every aspect of life across the world with unprecedented changes to health service provision and considerable mortality. In March 2020, the UK implemented a national lockdown requiring all NHS maternity services to make changes to their service delivery in order to protect service users and staff, and to ensure continued provision of essential care; with services across the NHS advised to plan for being staffed at 20%–80% capacity. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists regularly updated evidence-informed guidance; however, Trusts varied in their responses to this evidence and to the government guidance. The changes introduced included social distancing and infection control measures within hospitals and other clinical settings, postponement of ‘non-essential’ services, an introduction of virtual appointments and the reduction of footfall through buildings, including through introducing visiting restrictions. Community services were also impacted with, in many cases, access to GP surgeries for antenatal care being suspended.

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