Dads to stay overnight at new hospital

6 June 2002

New dads are to be invited to stay over night after the birth in some NHS facilities in a move to improve the care of mothers and babies by making services more father-friendly. The initiative is reported in a major study, “How To Build New Dads”, published today in the run-up to Fathers Day (June 16) by Fathers Direct, the national information centre on fatherhood. The report details a wave of other father-friendly schemes being introduced in the NHS.

The change is one of the biggest shifts in maternity practice in over 30 years since it became routine for fathers to attend the birth. It will come into effect next year, just after the introduction of statutory paid paternity leave.
The study reports that in July 2003, Grimsby Maternity Hospital will open a pioneering new unit, delivering 2,200 babies annually. It will have purpose-built double bedrooms and en suite facilities in which both parents will be invited to stay throughout the period of the mother’s admission to hospital.

Karen Robinson, head of midwifery, gynaecology and sexual health for North Lincolnshire and Goole hospitals, responsible for the Grimsby initiative, said:

“Fathers will be brought into caring for their partners and infants and we expect that this will have a knock-on effect for our midwives, reducing their workload by fathers performing practical tasks such as running baths, helping their partner to move about and get comfortable, lifting the baby and helping the mother to feed. “

Tom Beardshaw, campaign manager, Fathers Direct, welcomed the new unit.

“Dads can be a vital support to mothers and new babies after the birth, cutting the workload for over-stretched midwives and learning important baby care skills. Research shows that involving dads early on can be crucial to long-term child development and for bonding families particularly when the relationship between mother and father is fragile.”

The £11.5m Grimsby rebuilding programme is part of a £100m NHS-funded maternity unit refurbishment programme announced last year by Alan Milburn, Secretary of State for Health. In a recent interview, Mr Milburn urged maternity units that allow fathers to stay over to publicise the facility as a mark of their excellence.

At Grimsby, the purpose-built rooms will have tea-making facilities and domestic-style built in wardrobe and cupboard space in which all the equipment for baby delivery can be stored. The scheme design is based on the latest advice on new hospital building from the Department of Health.

“How To Build New Dads” also reports other NHS “father-friendly” initiatives:

  • Dads are encouraged to take off their shirts and have “skin-to-skin” contact with their babies at Forth Park Maternity Hospital, Fife.
  • Some hospitals have begun routinely bathing new-born babies in the evenings rather than during the day so that fathers can attend.
  • At Queen Mother hospital, Glasgow, midwives have introduced a scheme for auditing the satisfaction of fathers with the services on offer to them.
  • Many hospitals have in recent years relaxed their visiting hours to allow fathers to remain with their new families for most of the day.
  • Nottingham City Hospital now allows the entire family, including siblings, to stay over in its ‘Patients’ Hotel’.

The study reports latest research on the impact of early father involvement.

In the US state of West Virginia, when midwives were specially trained to include new fathers, the rate for men officially acknowledging their paternity rose from 18 to 60 per cent in four years among low-income unmarried couples.

The How To Build New Dads study was part-funded by the Home Office, the Scottish Executive Health Department, the Lloyds TSB Foundation, the Bernard van Leer Foundation and the National Family and Parenting Institute.

Notes to Editors

How To Build New Dads is published by Fathers Direct, price £5.95

Fathers Direct is the national information centre for fatherhood, a charity founded in 1999. Our goal is: transforming fatherhood, transforming children’s lives. We publish the awarding-winning online magazine for fathers, plus a guide for new dads and provide training, conferences and briefings on fatherhood for those working in family services.

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