Women's health services adapting well to COVID-19, but concerns remain for long-term

May 27, 2020

The majority of women's healthcare units in the UK, including services such as maternity and gynaecological cancers, have adapted well to the initial COVID-19 outbreak, according to a new survey by University of Warwick researchers.

However, there are concerns that without greater planning for the long-term they could be storing up problems that could adversely affect women's health in the future.

The results of the survey, conducted by Warwick Medical School and the University of Edinburgh, are reported in the BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology today (28 May). They suggest that the rapid implementation of evidence-guidance and re-allocation of NHS resources have been key in adapting to the challenges of COVID-19.

Women's healthcare units provide services such as maternity, antenatal, postnatal and gynaecology, including treatment for women with gynaecological cancers.

95% of women's healthcare units in the UK responded to the survey between 28 March and 7 of April 2020, which aimed to ascertain whether women's healthcare units had adopted guidance from the World Health Organisation and Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) on the safe management of women with COVID-19.

60.1% of units responded that they had completed specific training drills for obstetric and gynaecological emergencies in women with COVID-19, and 64.9% had provided training in two-persons donning and doffing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

87.8% of units had departmental protocols specific to COVID-19 in pregnancy and 70.8% operated COVID-19 dedicated theatres for obstetrics emergencies. 91.2% of respondents felt that adequate PPE was offered to health professionals.

The majority of units (79.1%) had also reduced face-to-face antenatal clinics and 88.5% had completely stopped elective gynaecology services such as planned caesarean sections and induction of labour among steps to limit the presence of inpatients.

Lead author Dr Bassel Wattar of Warwick Medical School said: "Women require sustainable access to predictable yet essential healthcare services including maternity, contraception and family planning. Our study aimed to provide a rapid snapshot assessment on the current status in providing these service in the NHS within few weeks of implementing the national guidelines in response to COVID-19.

"The majority of NHS hospitals seem to be following established evidence-based guidelines from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists as well as the WHO to provide safe service to women in need. In the acute response phase, many elective gynaecological services were suspended and this could affect women's health on the long-term if these services are not restored rapidly, such as those with chronic pelvic pain and menstrual problems. Additionally, there seems to be an impact on the provision of gynaecological cancer treatment services, but a more detailed assessment is needed to draw an accurate picture."

The survey also highlights concerns about long-term planning for these services as social distancing continues into the next stage of the pandemic.

Dr Wattar adds: "Many units within women's healthcare are starting to use telemedicine technology to provide safe care while upholding the rule of social distancing. These elements need to be explored further and implemented properly into NHS maternity services as we prepare for the 'new normal'. Additionally, there is a need to restore elective gynaecology care rapidly to avoid long-term adverse health outcomes. An example could be to move surgical operation sites into 'clean stand-alone units' which is being trialled by many NHS trusts in collaboration with the private sector.

"In times of major health pandemics, a high level of morbidity is often linked to poor access to healthcare services and depletion of available resources. COVID-19 is presenting an unpresented challenge to medical community worldwide, disrupting access to health services and increasing the strain and demand on medical staff. As we re-allocate resources to deal with the pandemic many groups requiring continuous care, for example maternity, cancer, and trauma care, will be adversely impacted."
-end-
* 'Provision of obstetrics and gynaecology services during the COVID-19 pandemic: a survey of junior doctors in the UK National Health Service' is published in BJOG: an International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, DOI: 10.1111/1471-0528.16313

Notes to Editors:

For interviews or a copy of the paper contact:

Peter Thorley
Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics) | Press & Media Relations | University of Warwick
Email: peter.thorley@warwick.ac.uk
Mob: +44 (0) 7824 540863

University of Warwick

Related Healthcare Articles from Brightsurf:

How to protect healthcare workers from COVID-19
Researchers are developing simple and inexpensive tools--like a DIY ventilator--to treat patients more effectively and prevent disease transmission in hospitals.

Healthcare as a climate solution
Although the link may not be obvious, healthcare and climate change -- two issues that pose major challenges around the world -- are in fact more connected than society may realize.

Healthcare's earthquake: Lessons from COVID-19
Leaders and clinician researchers from Beth Israel Lahey Health propose using complexity science to identify strategies that healthcare organizations can use to respond better to the ongoing pandemic and to anticipate future challenges to healthcare delivery.

Poor women in Bangladesh reluctant to use healthcare
A study, published in PLOS ONE, found that the women living in Dhaka slums were reluctant to use institutionalised maternal health care for fear of having to make undocumented payments, unfamiliar institutional processes, lack of social and family support, matters of honour and shame, a culture of silence and inadequate spousal communication on health issues.

Women and men executives have differing perceptions of healthcare workplaces according to a survey report in the Journal of Healthcare Management
Healthcare organizations that can attract and retain talented women executives have the advantage over their peers, finds a special report in the September/October issue of the Journal of Healthcare Management, an official publication of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

Greater financial integration generally not associated with better healthcare quality
New findings from a Dartmouth-led study, published in the August issue of Health Affairs, show that larger, more integrated healthcare systems do not generally deliver better quality care, and that there is significant variation in quality scores across hospitals and physician practices, regardless of whether they are independent or owned by larger systems.

Wearable sensor may help to assess stress in healthcare workers
A wearable biosensor may help monitor stress experienced by healthcare professionals, according to a study published in Physiological Reports.

Healthcare innovators focus on 'quality as a business strategy' -- update from Journal of Healthcare Quality
Despite two decades of effort -- targeting care processes, outcomes, and most recently the value of care - progress has been slow in closing the gap between quality and cost in the US healthcare system.

How runaway healthcare costs are a threat to older adults and what to do about it
Empowering Medicare to directly negotiate drug prices, accelerating the adoption of value-based care, using philanthropy as a catalyst for reform and expanding senior-specific models of care are among recommendations for reducing healthcare costs published in a new special report and supplement to the Winter 2019-20 edition of Generations, the journal of the American Society of Aging (ASA).

How can healthcare achieve real technology driven transformation?
Real transformation in healthcare through the adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, telecommunications, and other advanced technologies could provide significant improvements in healthcare quality, productivity, and access.

Read More: Healthcare News and Healthcare Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.