It comes after midwives at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary complained to NHS Lothian chiefs that partners of new mothers staying overnight is putting strain on staff as they claim fathers treat the ward “like a hotel”.
The complaints have led to a backlash from families furious that fathers are being blamed as they claim problems with poor facilities and a lack of staff support for the changes are not being addressed.
The move to encourage fathers to stay overnight in maternity wards is being brought in across health boards in line with Scottish Government guidance on making neonatal and maternity care more inclusive of fathers under the Best Start policy.
Fathers Network Scotland (FNS) Programme lead Chris Miezitis said: “Families deserve to have the choice.
“We can’t exclude fathers at a time when their partners and babies needed them most.
“Hospitals have shown they can make it work. The positive impacts for parents are huge.
“Some concerns raised by ERI staff are legitimate but some seem to be a storm in a teacup. So if an exhausted dad gets a bite to eat in the kitchen so he can be a much-needed support to his baby and partner, what’s the problem? We need to see hurdles we can get over not treat these issues like huge barriers.”
FNS provides training to health services to make services more father-friendly, under Scottish Government funded pilot scheme How Are You Dad?
As part of their research, FNS found mothers rate the support of their partner more than that of health staff. It also found when maternity units brought in overnight facilities for fathers after the birth, complaints from mums plummeted and midwives were freed up to provide direct care.
Mr Miezitis added: “We found on average a new mum will buzz a midwife up to 15 times in a day but with dad there overnight that drops to around four or five times.”
Senior staff at Scotland’s first father-friendly maternity ward backed calls for overnight stays to be the norm, after finding complaints from mothers dropped when they piloted the scheme.
Since Ninewells in Dundee introduced overnight stays for fathers two years ago, more than 200 have stayed in the maternity ward.
Donna Brough, midwifery team manager, initiated the changes after hearing from mothers that they wanted support from their partners.
Fathers currently sleep in plastic chairs in the ward but the team recently secured funding to buy 85 recliner chairs.
“We have ground rules for partners and that has helped address concerns. We have had to iron out issues but things are moving forward. More families say it’s what they want now. Helping mums feel supported and dads feel confident from the start is so important for all the family.”
Thomas Lynch, Service Manager for Dads’ Rock said: “Staff have a lot on their plate but parents must be heard and families tell us they generally want dads there. We need measures in place to make it happen. Having Dads left standing in corridors or sleeping on floors, sometimes not knowing if their baby or wife are even alive. We must do better.”
NHS Lothian confirmed they were implementing the Scottish Government Best Start policy