"Phone lines in Maternity services"

About: Forth Valley Royal Hospital / Maternity unit

(as the patient),

When I found out I was pregnant at the end of 2013, I phoned the telephone number to self-refer which can easily be found online. This is a positive, good to know it's easily available for all who have internet access...but when I phoned the number I was actually hoping to speak to a person on the other end of the telephone. Unfortunately, after a few attempts and getting the same message, I realised it was not a manned phone line. Is there a reason for this? ? Surely it would make more sense to speak to another person on the other end of the phone to arrange the appointment rather than to-ing and fro-ing with telephone calls for both parties.

With my previous pregnancies (under the care of staff in NHS Fife) I was able to speak to a midwife directly when booking in, and if I had any concerns I was given a contact number to get in touch (to speak to a midwife straight away).

I did eventually get a phone call back a week later re: booking appointment for my current pregnancy care. I can't help feeling it's all a bit impersonal.

I've previously had experience of miscarriage (five years ago) and after having slight bleeding and cramps when speaking to a community midwife (NHS Fife) was booked in to EPAU the next morning for a scan without hesitation. Unfortunately, I'm having similar symptoms with this current pregnancy and had to phone the EPU NHS Forth Valley only to be greeted with yet *another* answer machine! Why, again, is this line not manned by staff when women are anxious about their symptoms of pregnancy and need reassurance? Surely it would make more sense to have a member of staff around to speak directly to a patient straight away? I'm slightly deflated with the service I've experienced so far....

Looking forward to some explanations. Thanks.

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Response from Gail Bell, Deputy Head of Midwifery, Women and Children, NHS Forth Valley

Thank you for your recent posting and congratulations on your pregnancy.

I was sorry to hear that you were unable to get through to the booking bureau, a situation which must have been very frustrating for you. We have been doing a lot of work around this part of our service to ensure women can access our services promptly and have been asking mums about their experiences in order to learn and improve the service. We had identified problems in the last few weeks which we hoped were resolved, however it looks like we have further work to do. The phone line is manned to take calls from 08.30 until 12md. The expectation is that if the staff member is unable to take your call usually because they are on the line, your call should be returned after 12md and within 4 hours to discuss your booking appointment. Our service is manned by trained clerical staff. I am certainly not happy with the fact you had to wait a week for a call back and would like to assure you that I will look in to this.

My hope is that our recent changes will now prevent this happening. Unfortunately an on-going issue is that our return calls are from 0800 numbers which we know are not always answered by people, myself included, which may add to the issue.

I am glad to hear that you were able to find the number easily on-line and there are now posters in several community facilities and GP surgeries also giving the information.

Every unit works differently but I know that our midwifery teams give contact information for any concerns which they discuss at the history taking appointment. If you would like to chat about this and give me some more detail, I can look into why this did not happen for you.

I can understand that you will be anxious about this pregnancy and naturally keen to have some reassuring advice given. The EPAS line is also manned during working hours and I can only apologise that you were unsuccessful getting through, I have therefore passed on your comments to the area Manager who is currently reviewing this service to see where improvements, if any, can be made.

I hope that the remainder of your experience of our service will be positive and that you keep well throughout your pregnancy.

Should you wish to talk further I can be contacted as below.


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