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October 2021 Update

One year on - compassionate care during Covid

Catherine Macrae, NBCP Scotland Project Lead

From May 2020 onwards we asked all Boards to provide feedback on the impact of COVID-19 measures on their usual bereavement care following loss in pregnancy or after birth. Last October we shared the picture so far. This summer we asked Boards to look back at what has changed.

It was reassuring to hear that units and services were able to provide the care they always could for women and their partners. Boards told us that the quality of care is much improved and they had worked out creative and innovative ways to provide women and partners with individualised and compassionate care. Some things are making it easier now.

  • Better communication with women and partners on what to expect including using social media.
  • Continued use of technology to make contact with families virtually.
  • Innovative ideas to ensure no family is negatively affected.
  • More face to face follow up, including support meetings.
  • Improved access to specialist support.
  • Engaging with and being well supported by charities.

The impact of the pandemic on the NHS makes improving care more challenging but no less important. As we might expect, given the measures that need to remain in place, there are some concerns.

  • Partners not always coming in for scans etc. (even though they can now) so breaking bad news can be harder on the woman.
  • Increased bed spacing means not as many rooms/beds are available for optimal bereavement care.
  • The constant use of facemasks remains a barrier to sensitive conversations.
  • Families are still finding it difficult to come into hospitals and feel 'interrogated' by security and at reception about their appointment.
  • Extended family members are unable to attend easily due to space and social distancing.
  • Less frequent scanning raises anxiety for a few women, particularly with a history of recurrent miscarriage or previous ectopic or molar pregnancy.
  • Some delays with pathology results.
  • Reduced psychology services for parents such as counselling and psychological first aid.

In the spring and summer a few boards were experiencing workforce pressures due to self isolation, sickness absence, shielding etc. We know that more boards are experiencing staffing issues now.

We had already seen that stretched staffing has an immediate, disruptive impact on the quality of bereavement care, especially on the time staff can spend supporting women and partners and the availability of appropriately trained and supported staff.

Each of the 5 pathways has a section on staff care which begins with an overarching aim: that units and services

provide an emotionally supportive environment for staff where challenges can be discussed openly and individual needs are acknowledged and met

A key goal over the coming months will be working out how to achieve that in challenging times. Let us know how we can support you. 

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