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COVID-19 safety in maternity care: lessons for the whole NHS

23 April 2020
Volume 29 · Issue 8


John Tingle, Lecturer in Law, Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham, discusses some recent reports in maternity care, which can be seen to also to have general application across all clinical specialities

The COVID-19 pandemic is raising all sorts of legal, ethical and patient safety issues across the NHS. For example, expectant mothers are turning to freebirthing because homebirths have been cancelled due to the pandemic (Summers, 2020). This choice can have major health implications if complications occur during birth and professional help is not at hand.

More than a fifth of birthing centres and more than a third of homebirth services have been closed due to midwifery shortages (Summers, 2020), and there are concerns about how quickly ambulances can respond to emergencies.

‘The evidence for the safety of birth settings that are not co-located with an obstetric unit is based on the availability of ambulance services to enable rapid transfer, and appropriate staffing levels. If these are not in place, it may be reasonable to rationalise the provision of these services.’

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