NHS failing to provide family-centred services, fathers' survey shows

11 June 2018, 07:15


Fathers say NHS Scotland is failing to provide the "family-centred" services required by its own rules, a survey has claimed.

The poll by Fathers Network Scotland and the Fatherhood Institute showed large numbers of new dads felt ignored before, during and after delivery.

The Who's The Bloke In The Room? report published on Monday by the Fatherhood Institute was funded by the Nuffield Foundation and details how expectant fathers are key influences on infant health and well-being.

Of the dads polled in an accompanying survey How Was It For You?, 65% of those questioned (61% in Scotland) said antenatal healthcare professionals had rarely or never discussed fathers' roles.

Half of those questioned (56% UK; 50% Scotland) had rarely or never been addressed by name.

Samantha Pringle, director of Fathers Network Scotland, said: "All the research shows that involving fathers at this crucial time of preparation, birth and post-natal care has a positive impact on the whole family.

"But our survey sadly shows that fathers remain an under-used resource - at a time when a stretched NHS would most benefit from the support they bring to their families.

"Let's change this outdated attitude and follow the beacons of excellent practice - such as the Dads2B classes pioneered across the Lothians. They show how instilling confidence in expectant fathers can ripple through the whole community."

The research showed more than a quarter of fathers had been asked about their physical health (22% UK; 24.5% Scotland) or diet and exercise (18% UK; 20.9% Scotland).

Almost half of those questioned (48% in both UK and Scotland) had not been asked about smoking, despite risks of passive smoking to babies and fathers' role in supporting pregnant mums to give up.

Two thirds of fathers said they felt welcome at their children's birth.

But the poll said there was high levels of disappointment in hospital policy, particularly in Scotland, where nearly half of fathers (48% in Scotland compared to 40% in UK) said hospitals had not allowed sufficient time for the new family to spend together after the birth.

In Scotland 96% of dads felt staying after the birth would be helpful to mum, and 77% believe they can be helpful to staff, who are often overstretched.

Ninewells Hospital, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, Arbroath Infirmary were praised in feedback with Crosshouse Hospital in Kilmarnock described as "very welcoming and inclusive" of dads.

NHS staff visiting after the birth "rarely" or "never" spoke about fathers' roles, according to 47% of dads quizzed in Scotland

Adrienne Burgess, co-chief executive of the Fatherhood Institute said: "No-one can say dads are not interested or unwilling. But the survey reveals serious failings in the NHS approach at every stage.

"Too often, services are ignoring fathers, in spite of dads' importance to healthy pregnancies and babies and even though mothers want their partner to be involved and informed."