"I’ve just had a very disturbing incident with the..."

About: Queen Charlotte's Hospital

I’ve just had a very disturbing incident with the receptionists from the Antenatal Care of Queen Charlotte’s, this morning at 11:15 am, when I called the reception. I had an appointment for tomorrow, and I received a call last Monday telling me that the venue for the appointment had been change from the ANC to my local Health Centre. Two things worried me: first the lady insisted that just the venue had been changed, and I explained that the date had been changed as well (form the 3rd to the 9th April); but she insisted that I was wrong with the original date. Secondly, I haven’t received any confirmation text message regarding the appointment, so I wasn’t sure if the appointment had actually been changed. As the original appointment is tomorrow, I called the clinic today to make sure that I don’t have to attend tomorrow. My call was attended by a member of staff who asked me my hospital number in order to check the information for the appointment. I told her that I didn’t have my hospital number with me, and then immediately she started having a go at me for not having the maternity notes with me all the time. I know that not having the maternity notes is my fault, and I understand that she needed the hospital number in order to help me, but, I told her I was 16 weeks pregnant and I needed this information, and instead of helping me the only things she did was to rebuke me angrily again and again. I just couldn’t believe what she was doing to me, so I told her she was being rude, and also that she had no idea what I’ve been through: I am 16 weeks pregnant, I had already a confusion with appointments due a letter sent by mistake to me (I mentioned this to the midwife in the booking appointment), and I was scored high risk in the Down Syndrome screening, which means I had to go through a CVS and all what this implied: a lot of stress, anxiety and worrying. Of course she didn’t care about what I was saying and kept stubbornly telling me that I should have the maternity notes all the time with me, and she kept getting angrier. I told her I was going to make a complaint and I asked her name, and to my surprise she left the phone! She left me talking to myself and handed the phone to another lady. I told the second lady that I wanted the name of the first lady because I wanted to complain, and she said “no, she wasn’t being rude to you, she just asked for your hospital number”, seriously? Is this the “normal way” to ask for the hospital number? The “usual” way of treating patients? particularly pregnant women? After insisting she gave me the name, and in the end she asked what help I needed, but at that point I decided not to ask anything, I was too upset to keep talking to them. I told her that they were rude, that that’s not the way to treat patients, but obviously she didn’t even listen to what I was saying. She said they did know what they are doing and my complaint about them being rude was nonsense. I told her I was going to complain, and she said “ok, whatever, bye” and she hang up, leaving me talking to myself. As a human being and as a pregnant woman I know this is not the right way to treat anybody. A patient, and particularly a pregnant woman, is going through unexpected events that make any human being more vulnerable and apprehensive, and I assume the staff at an antenatal clinic should know that. I am a midwife myself, with 10+years’ experience in primary health care in a developing country – where there are fewer resources and staff are more overloaded with work than in the NHS - and have never treated anybody like this. I also hold a MPH awarded in the UK, so I know how Public Health Systems work, and I understand that the staff might be overwhelmed by work and I am aware of the issues surrounding the NHS nowadays, but that is not reason for mistreating people. Honestly, having a go and shouting someone over the phone is not the right way to work in a clinic’s reception, and without even asking anything about the person on the other side of the line – not even my name, weeks of pregnancy, or how I was feeling! The problem was that I didn’t know my hospital number, a number… Maybe, the NHS should remind their staff that they are working with people (with feelings, worries, histories, etc) and not with numbers, and maybe to teach them some basic stress/anger management skills in order to provide service with a minimum standard of care. I am very disappointed and upset, and I’m thinking of changing the antenatal clinic from Queen Charlotte’s to another hospital, which would be a shame as I would love to have my baby at the Queen Charlotte’s Birth Centre. I will talk to the midwife or whoever attends me in the next appointment (as I have no idea who is going to attend me, nobody gave me the information I needed), and I’ll make a decision then.

Story from NHS Choices

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