Protecting human rights in childbirth

Registered Charity Number 1151152

Birth partner restrictions

Email template 2: For community organisations and supporters who want to challenge a hospital/Trust’s policy on birth partner restrictions

  1. Copy and paste the below text into an email and change all of the sections in [black italics] to information that is specific to you and your pregnancy.
  2. Find the Patient Advice Liaison Service (PALS) email address for your local Trust/hospital here.
  3. CC Birthrights into your email! Send your completed email to your local PALS service and CC in Birthrights at: action@birthrights.org.uk

If you’re sharing details of your challenge on social media, tag @birthrightsorg!

What happens next?

It might take PALS a few weeks to respond to your challenge and depending on the complexity of your specific case, it could take longer than that.

If the Trust/hospital is still refusing your request to have a partner with you after you’ve used our template then we’re here to help and you can contact our Advice team for guidance and assistance on how to proceed further. Alternatively, you can contact a legal firm to advocate on your behalf but this will cost you money.

We want to hear from you!

Please let us know if and when you hear back from your Trust after using our templates, regardless of the outcome. Your responses will help inform future work in this area and could help us drive meaningful change.

Sign up to our newsletter for updates on this campaign, as well as other campaigns in the future.

Dear CEO of the Trust/Health Board and Head of Midwifery,

We are reaching out to you today as [the name of your organisation]. We are an organisation with a mission [include your mission and any other info on your organisation that you would like to share]. We are writing to you as we are very concerned about the blanket restrictions that are put on birth partner(s) at [the name of your Trust/hospital]. The restrictions make our community feel [xxx] about coming into the hospital/birthing unit/MLU to give birth.

We are aware from Birthrights that women and birthing people in our community have a right under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – the right to private and family life. This includes the right to have their partners with them as they go through labour and give birth. We understand women and birthing people also have the right to have their partners support them and their newborn baby/babies in the initial hours and days postnatally. We understand that this right can be restricted by a public body, such as an NHS Trust, but only when the restriction is lawful, necessary, and proportionate. We are also aware that the ECHR is part of UK law via the Human Rights Act 1998 which places duties on all public bodies, including NHS Trusts and Health boards, to respect and protect people’s human rights. We are aware that NHS Trusts need to be clear that any restriction on birth partners being present at any stage of antenatal, labour, and postnatal care, is necessary for evidence-based reasons to protect public health, and is proportionate to the goal that the restriction may be designed to meet.

We know that NICE Guideline 194 “Postnatal care” and Care Quality Commission Regulation 9A “Visiting and accompanying in care homes, hospitals and hospices” both require English Trusts to take necessary measures to make sure they respect the right of women and birthing people to receive visits and to be accompanied, in line with their needs. [You may wish to remove this section if you are living in Wales, Scotland, North Ireland.]

We have been told about the birth partner restrictions [include what you have been told about the restrictions, the types of restrictions and since when the restrictions are in place if you have the information] by [include where did you find out about the restrictions]. This is a significant issue for our community because [include reasons in here that are specific to your community e.g. some of us speak English as an additional language / some of us experience systemic racism because of our skin colour/ some of us am a survivor of trauma / some of us live with a mental health condition / some of us live with a disability / some of us are having a caesarean birth / some of us will be giving birth to multiple babies]. The women and birthing people in our community are affected by these restrictions [include here ways your community members feel not having their birth partners present].

We as a community organisation are particularly concerned about staffing on the [early pregnancy/induction/postnatal] ward, as we know that the NHS is currently estimated to be short of 2500 midwives and that this Trust has recently been rated [include here the rate of your Trust] by CQC

We would like to ask the following questions to help us better understand the restrictions to birth partners and how this may impact our community going forward.

  1. When was the policy on birth partners on partners created?
  2. When was the policy on birth partners last reviewed?
  3. When will the policy on birth partners be reviewed next?
  4. What is the evidence base and rationale underpinning the policy on birth partners?
  5. Please share most recent risk assessment underpinning the rationale including the clinical benefits to a pregnant person of having a known and trusted birth partner them.
  6. What has the level of staff/service user voice involvement has there been in reviewing and updating the policy, and when has this taken place?
  7. How are you justifying this as a proportionate restriction on my rights under Article 8 of the ECHR?
  8. What is your process for considering exceptions on a case-by-case basis?

Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. We would appreciate a response to our concerns within 7-28 days.

Kind regards,

[Your name and/or name of your organisation]