Infant Journal
for neonatal and paediatric healthcare professionals

Parents prevented from seeing their baby due to COVID-19 measures

A recent survey by Bliss has found that more than one in seven parents were not able to be with their baby at all during their stay on a neonatal unit, due to tough COVID-19 restrictions.

Bliss’ survey also found 39% of parents said the unit where their baby was cared for imposed time limits on how long parents could be with their baby, with some as little as just two hours a day. This was particularly acute for parents of the sickest babies (those who spent more than four weeks in hospital) of whom around 74% said restrictions on access affected their ability to be with their baby.

Parental involvement is proven to support sick and vulnerable babies to have the very best short and long-term outcomes and to support attachment and bonding, which is vital to the health and well-being of the whole family unit.

These findings come as neonatal units continue to limit when and for how long parents can be with their babies due to COVID-19. While guidance from national bodies and Bliss is clear that parents should never be considered visitors, some NHS Trusts are failing to provide adequate access for parents.

While NHS England issued a National Framework to support the return of partners to maternity settings in September, this crucially did not include neonatal services. Bliss’ survey highlights that national guidance to promote parent access to their babies in neonatal units is needed now more than ever to keep families together over the difficult winter ahead.

Caroline Lee-Davey, Chief Executive at Bliss, commented: “Our findings show the devastating impact COVID-19 is having for families of premature and sick babies. A neonatal experience is extremely difficult at any time, but the current COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more challenging.

“Parents are the most important people in their baby’s lives. While some trusts have bent over backwards to ensure that parents have maintained 24/7 access to their babies, we are extremely disappointed that, despite clear, evidence-based recommendations to keep families together from Bliss and professional bodies like the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the British Association of Perinatal Medicine, so many trusts are still failing to act.”