Charities working to support parents and families and to save babies’ lives during the COVID19 outbreak are warning that their vital services will soon cease to exist without urgent financial support from the Government.
There is a high likelihood that without financial support the result will be charities being forced to cut services to around one million expectant mothers and new families and to those affected by pregnancy and baby loss.
These cuts will come at a time of unprecedented demand with more than two thirds of those same charities expecting demand for their services to increase dramatically in the coming months.
The Pregnancy & Baby Charities Network is now calling on Government and NHS England to ensure that its members benefit from the £750m package announced by the Chancellor last week to keep struggling charities afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
A survey of its members by the Network found that 74% of charities providing direct support to women and families expect to cut their front-line services for women and families in the coming months.
The COVID-19 outbreak is affecting families across the UK who need the support of the pregnancy and baby charities more than ever, due to increased isolation and fear and the unprecedented pressure on the NHS, which needs to focus on caring for those suffering from the effects of coronavirus.
The money would make a crucial difference to charities that support the Maternity Transformation Programme and the National Ambition to reduce baby and mothers’ deaths and brain injury by half by 2020 and preterm births by a quarter. Equally, it would be a lifeline for charities providing crucial information and support for people whose physical and mental health are directly impacted by reductions and restrictions in maternity services.
Keith Reed, Chair of the Pregnancy and Baby Charities Network and CEO of Twins Trust, said: “The package of support announced by the Chancellor is welcome but we are yet to see any details of how it will be allocated. Our charities are plugging the gaps in care for women who are giving birth during the outbreak, saving babies lives now, and stepping up to support families and NHS workers when a baby dies.
“Many of the charities that the NHS relies upon to deliver support to families have already begun cutting frontline services because of their perilous financial positions. This is having a detrimental impact on families across the antenatal and postnatal period including those with babies in neonatal care. This situation is likely to get significantly worse in the coming days.
“All the charities are acutely aware of the central role they need to play in supporting families as NHS services respond to the current national emergency. All stand ready to deliver but many are being forced to withdraw support for families due to financial challenges. This situation will only get worse without Government intervention.
“We need a suitable package of support in days not weeks, so that we can continue to contribute to the response preventing parents from accessing acute care at a time of strain in the National Health Service and provide specialist services to parents.”
Clea Harmer, Chief Executive at Sands (Stillbirth and neonatal death charity) and Vice Chair of the Pregnancy and Baby Charities Network, said: “Those affected by the death of a baby will need the support of charities like Sands now more than ever. Our free helpline is also hearing from women who are pregnant again after losing a baby, and their anxiety is only made worse by the threat of the virus.
“Sands, along with other charities in the network, are also here to support all NHS staff working in hospitals, both to equip them with the confidence and skills to care for families when the worst happens, but also to offer support for the staff themselves.
“One concern shared by anyone caring for pregnant women and their families is that mothers receive the information and care that is needed to ensure the safety of them and their baby. Not getting the right care and support could have a significant impact on the rate of stillbirth in the UK, which has been falling in recent years.
“If there is no financial support available to see charities through this difficult time then we will not only be unable to offer this immediate help, but it is possible that we will not survive to continue our invaluable work supporting parents and families after the death of a baby, improving bereavement care, and helping to save babies lives.
Many of the Pregnancy and Baby Charities Network members have specific information for women, families and health professionals affected by COVID-19.