Edinburgh midwives say men using postnatal ward 'like a hotel' are 'compromising patient care'

An influx of men staying overnight with their partners after birth is putting strain on ward staff who 'don't have the facilities' to tend to them.

Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 14th January 2020, 9:46 am

Staff on the maternity ward of Edinburgh’s Royal Infirmary have raised concerns about male partners of new mothers ‘using the ward like a hotel’ and have said they feel ‘demoralised and undermined’ by management after being told to ‘just accept it’.

Several midwives, who wish to remain anonymous, have told the Evening News that although they are asked to encourage partners to spend the night at home, over the past six month there has been an influx of men staying in the postnatal ward alongside new mothers.

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It is claimed that some patients are uncomfortable and distressed

The midwives have said it has caused issues for staff, stress for the new mothers and that patient care is being compromised because of the conditions.

Staff claim that the overcrowded ward has seen men sleeping in chairs, on the floors and in the bed of the mother making it difficult for those on shift to reach emergency buzzers and patient lockers as well as making infection prevention more difficult.

It is also claimed that male visitors have asked to be fed by the NHS when they have stayed, ordered takeaways to the ward and have been entering and using the ward staff’s kitchen.

One midwife said: “You can’t even sneeze in the NHS without their being a policy on how to wash your hands, when we’ve raised concerns about this we’ve been told there’s no policy yet but one is coming in.

“There are women on the ward who are uncomfortable and too embarrassed to get changed or breastfeed because of the amount of visitors there staying over and their sleep is being disrupted. Childbirth and postnatal period should be about women and babies and we’re having to bend over backwards for men treating it like a hotel.”

'We don't have the facilities to keep the ward safe'

Another staff member said: “There is so little control of what is going on it’s really difficult to do our job. Bed spaces are far too small and we don’t have facilities to keep the ward clean, tidy and safe.

“The ward has 24 beds and there is never an empty one, on top of that there is 24, or more, babies and there are usually up to ten partners staying, but there could potentially be 24.

“At no point has there ever been a safety audit or infection control. Patient care is being compromised, this would not be accepted on any other medical ward.”

It is understood that at least two staff members have contacted NHS Lothian’s Chief Executive but have received no response.

Tracy Miller, branch secretary of UNISON’s NHS Lothian branch, said: “UNISON has been approached by concerned staff and we intend raising this with the Lothian Partnership Forum.

“While we are not opposed to partners staying at the hospital overnight, it should not be in a room where other patients are as it compromises their privacy. The hospital should be ensuring these patients and their partner are in a single room.”

Professor Alex McMahon, Nurse Director, NHS Lothian, said: “In common with all boards, NHS Lothian is implementing the guidance contained in the five-year action plan for maternity and neonatal care, issued by NHS Scotland, called Best Start. It says that fathers, partners and other family members should be actively encouraged and supported to become an integral part of all aspects of maternal and newborn care.

“As part of that, some mums like having their partners being there to support them at this special time and being involved in caring for their baby right from the start.”