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Maintaining bereavement care standards during COVID-19

As part of our National Bereavement Care Pathway blog posts, Professional Advisor for Education at the Royal College of Midwives, Gail Johnson, talks about the importance of maintaining good standards of bereavement care during this difficult time:

It’s becoming a bit of a cliché when we hear “we have never known anything like this before” when discussing the Covid-19 pandemic, but these are worrying times for everyone. Some parts of the NHS can re-direct their workforce, for example, cancelling non-life threatening surgery to free up staff and resources. However, that is clearly not an option for maternity services, which are carrying on as best they can, with a reduced workforce.

The Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists regularly update advice and guidance for professionals and advice for expectant parents is also regularly issued. Despite everyone’s best efforts, this is no doubt a scary time, and pregnant women are likely to feel particularly vulnerable. The evidence on the impact of the virus on pregnant women and their baby is not clear, further adding to worries.

When a baby dies the parents and family are left devastated and asking questions about why their baby died and they will feel anxiety about what they need to do and how they will cope.

The NBCP clearly sets out standards which are there to support all staff caring for families experiencing pregnancy loss or the death of a baby. Additional measures, which are there to keep others safe during Covid-19 pandemic (for example, arranging a funeral which only a small number can attend) can add to the distress of parents and staff.

It is important for carers to follow the guidance in the NBCP and identify what additional information parents will need. For some staff, they may find themselves supporting parents, when they feel ill-prepared themselves, especially where there are staff shortages. Short e-learning modules such as the NBCP’s introduction to bereavement care can help. Similarly, using the guidance and exploring any additional resources provided by NBCP stakeholder charities and Royal Colleges will help in making sure that staff are up to date and that families get the best care in sad and frightening times.

It is essential that if you are not sure, that you seek help and guidance from colleagues and from the NBCP and NBCP Scotland.