Parental access during COVID-19

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Bliss' statement on parental access and involvement during COVID-19, and other helpful resources.

On this page you will find:

  • Bliss’ position on parental access and involvement
  • Best practice and shared learning from neonatal units and networks
  • Latest updates to this page

Bliss Statement

In March 2020, in response to the growing intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals across the UK severely limited who was able to come onto hospital sites to reduce the spread of infections. These policies were introduced to protect vulnerable patients, and the dedicated staff who care for them, from contracting the virus. Throughout the two years following, neonatal units amended their policies over time to ensure both parents could be present and be involved in their baby's care, ensuring that parents are not visitors. By March 2022, as wider society transitioned to "Living with COVID", the vast majority of neonatal units have returned to full unrestricted access for parents, and some Trusts and Health Boards have also been able to restore visiting for siblings and wider family and friends to their units.

Hospitals across the UK are looking at how they can adapt their policies to ensure families are supported to be present and involved in their baby's care. We would encourage services to consider how they can best adjust policies around testing, to maintain unrestricted parent access, and to reintroduce siblings and wider family members.

Bliss statement on parental access

Best practice and shared learning

We know that neonatal services across the UK are working hard to implement policies which support continued parental involvement, while also aligning with national and local guidance which is emerging in response to the challenges caused by COVID-19.

We have grouped together some examples of best practice and useful resources. If you have a resource your unit or network has developed that you want to share, please send it to hcp@bliss.org.uk

Best practice
  • Facilitating parental access to parents, siblings and other family members who are COVID-19 positive if their baby is critically ill or receiving end of life or palliative care. 
  • Enabling parents to remove masks at the cot side.
  • Arranging virtual coffee mornings for discharged parents (and potentially also parents on the unit) to meet for peer support, chat to unit staff (community nurse and consultant, possibly other staff too) and Bliss Champion.
  • Feeding team using video calls to offer extra support to mothers
  • Access to food/parking vouchers etc.
  • Young Patients Family Fund (Scotland)

For best practice policies please refer to the guidance from RCPCH, supported by BAPM and Bliss' position statement.

Top tips

We also wanted to share other resources that can support families and staff at this time.

  • Bliss can provide a letter of support to share with Trusts where parental access remains restricted
  • The National Bereavement Care Pathway have adapted their resources to establish a minimum level of bereavement care which should be maintained during COVID-19
  • Many are using video technology to enhance the support provided to families on the unit. Don’t forget that there are multiple uses for video technology, with just some listed below:
    • vCreate for families to keep connected
    • Using MS Teams or Zoom for PAG meetings
    • Follow up appointments held online
    • Staff education and training
  • Where appropriate, ensure meetings and training are recorded and shared with those unable to attend or so they can be revisited after the session
  • Continue to signpost families to support organisations and services including Bliss, Lullaby Trust, Twins Trust, Citizens Advice and local support charities.
  • Sands have also developed resources for providing excellent communication with the barrier of PPE.

Updates to this page

22 April 2022

  • Position statement updated to reflect changes to national policy introduced in April 2022.
  • Best practice list amended to remove outdated examples.

25 January 2021

  • Correction made to the position statement: recommendation list updated to align with the 6 June version, after two recommendations on face coverings were omitted in error.

7 January 2021

  • Bliss position statement updated to reflect changes to parent access guidance in different UK nations.
  • Additional evidence has been included within the statement following the publication of papers which demonstrates how restrictions to parent access affected babies and families during the first wave of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

23 October 2020

  • Updated best practice examples and additional top tips

16 October 2020

  • Bliss letter of support made available to neonatal units

6 June 2020

  • Bliss position updated to reflect the change in guidance in some areas of the UK which require those attending hospital to wear a face covering.
  • Additional recommendations added to align with RCPCH and BAPM in supporting parents to remove face coverings while cotside with their baby.

7 May 2020

  • Bliss position updated to reflect new guidance from BAPM on parental presence and involvement during COVID-19. The position statement also includes a new recommendation around parental testing.
  • Best practice list updated.

5 May 2020

  • Best practice section added.

30 April 2020

  • Bliss position statement updated to include: specific recommendations for parental access for parents of twins and multiples, developed with Twins Trust; updated current guidance section referencing new Neonatal Transport Group guidelines and updated impact evidence for developmental outcomes associated with parental involvement.

8 April 2020

  • First version of the Bliss position on parental access and involvement during COVID-19 published.