Parents aren't visitors

A neonatal experience is always extremely difficult, and often traumatic. There can be many barriers which prevent parents from being with their baby - but the current COVID-19 pandemic is making these barriers even harder to overcome. We need Governments across the UK to take action now.

Parents are not visitors. Babies have the very best long-term developmental outcomes if their parents are able to be partners in delivering their baby's care on the neonatal unit.

Please sign our petition now, and call on Governments across the UK to make sure parents get the package of support they need so they can be with their baby as much as possible.

Campaign updates

Over the last few months we have raised awareness of our Parents Aren't Visitors campaign with Ministers and MPs directly.

  • We gave evidence during the House of Commons Petitions Committee Inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on parental leave. The Committee recommended that the Government pilot Neonatal Leave and Pay, and ensure parents could access rapid testing
  • Disappointingly, the Government rejected these recommendations (alongside nearly all others in the report) and the Minister for Small Business refused again to provide any extra support during a debate on 5th October. You can watch the debate here.
  • We have since met with Minister Paul Scully MP, alongside the APPG for Premature and Sick Babies, and put our concerns to him directly. While there are no plans to introduce Neonatal Leave and Pay now, we are reassured that his Department are doing everything they can to introduce legislation as soon as possible.
  • We have also recently met with both the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP and Minister for Patient Safety, Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Nadine Dorries MP. Both assured us they want to help parents be with their babies as much as possible - and we are working to make sure they take steps to make sure NHS Trusts are following best practice for parental access as consistently as possible.
  • Over 5,000 of you have signed our petition - thank you so much for your support!

Alongside this, we've been working with Health Professionals and neonatal services with our Position Statement on Parental Access and Involvement, which makes best practice recommendations for keeping families as involved in their baby's care during COVID-19 as possible.

What is the issue?

Family budgets are tighter than ever with many families experiencing job insecurity as a result of the pandemic. Bliss knows having a baby in neonatal care already adds to daily costs, with parents telling us previously they spent £282 more, on average, for every week their baby was in neonatal care. These costs come from daily travel to hospital, food & drink, accommodation and child care for older children.

At the same time, neonatal units are having to make the incredibly hard decision to limit who can be on neonatal units - including parents - in order to keep vulnerable babies and the dedicated staff who care for them safe.

Understandably, parents who have symptoms of COVID-19 will not be able to go onto the neonatal unit. Following current Public Health guidelines, they may be separated from their baby for two weeks. Rapid testing can reduce this to a couple of days if a negative test is returned.

What do we want to happen?

We want Governments across the UK to introduce an emergency package of support for parents with a baby in neonatal care to remove as many barriers as possible to parents being involved in their baby's care. We want to see:

  • The UK Government introduce a version of Neonatal Leave and Pay, which also provides support to parents who are self-employed and those in insecure jobs.
  • We want Governments in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to start nationally coordinated Funds to provide financial support to parents - in line with support which already exists in Scotland
  • We want Governments in England and Northern Ireland to extend their free parking policies at NHS sites to include parents of premature and sick babies.
  • We want all Governments to prioritise parents for rapid testing to minimise separation between babies and their parents, when parents are suspected to have COVID-19

Why is this best for babies?

Evidence is clear that babies have the very best outcomes when their parents are able to be partners in delivering their baby's care. Research has shown babies cared for in this way have increased weight gain and improved breastfeeding rates, and some studies have even shown that babies may go home from hospital earlier.

Parents are not visitors. They are a key part of their baby's care team. Not only does this have benefits for babies, but the whole family. This involvement has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in parents, and improve bonding and attachment.

This is absolutely vital as parents whose baby has had a neonatal experience are more likely to have negative mental health outcomes, compared to parents whose babies are born at term and healthy. Bliss' own research has found 80% of parents felt their mental health was negatively affected by their baby's neonatal experience.