"Some excellent practice, but improvements possible"

About: The Whittington Hospital

I had my first baby at the Whittington recently. I ended up having an elective Caesarian after complications and I felt very listened to and involved in the decision making around this. The Caesarian was, for me, a first class experience. The team were amazing, from the midwife booking me in, to the team during the procedure and member of the team following up. The labour ward where I recovered was cramped and noisy, which made the recovery the worse part of my experience. I had little sleep as all the babies cried all night and there was little privacy (you can hear personal conversations through the curtains). This is an issue which reflects a lack of funding for better facilities. I know the Whittington has a lovely new Birth Centre, but please don't forget the labour ward, where some of the mums with the more protracted and complicated births end up. The midwives on the labour ward were caring and working hard, although I think it helped that my partner stayed with me, sleeping on the fold back chair and advocating for me. There were times that I could see that the midwives were stretched, and for this reason, my discharge was delayed for several hours as no one was free to facilitate this. Generally, the midwives when I was an inpatient were very good and my experience of maternity triage was excellent on the occasion I went there. I'm afraid my experience of the community midwives was less good. There was, in my view, some inconsistency in experience and skill. When I was discharged and my baby was having feeding difficulties (turns out she had a tongue tie) I was told a midwife would visit me at home within 24 hours, but it took 3 days with me phoning them on several occasions. When I did pin one down, she said she had '10 mothers to see in one day so couldn't tell me when she'd come' which reflects the pressure they're under, but also indicated a lack of professionalism as this is information a stressed out new mum doesn't need to hear. During my antenatal visits, I had to prompt people sitting in with the midwife to introduce themselves on several occasions. This strikes me as a professional courtesy, given the personal content of the discussions. It made me doubt their training on other fundamentals such as confidentiality. In all, I'd recommend the Whittington mat service, but I suspect the Birth Centre is a better experience. A side room on the labour ward makes a world of difference (we got one on the last night after a campaign of attrition by my other half!) The staff were, without exception, working hard and doing their best, and some individuals were truly exceptional. Where the experience fell down was (1) poor facilities on the labour ward, and (2) overstretched community midwives, both of which are linked to funding issues (and the latter, to recruitment issues no doubt). I also feel that the overall management of the community midwives could be overhauled to improve communication, training, organisation and build morale.

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Response from The Whittington Hospital

Thank you for taking the time to write about your maternity experience at Whittington Health. I have discussed you feedback with the Head of Midwifery and hope that you find the following information helpful. The post natal ward can appear cramped, especially when the curtains are drawn around all the beds. We are currently up grading the ante natal ward which will have better facilities for women and their partners. This is due to be completed in October this year. The post natal ward and labour ward are then next to be upgraded. This is a major refurbishment project and will take a few years to complete. We will be asking women what they would like in regards to facilities and your comments about lack of space and privacy will be noted for the new designs. We are glad that your partner stayed with you; this scheme was started in 2012 and has proven to be very popular for families. I am sorry that you were delayed going home due to the discharge process. We are currently reviewing this and hope to make it more streamlined so that women can go home more promptly. I apologise for the service you received from the community, and the fact that you had to ring to ensure you had a home visit. I am also sorry that staff did not introduce themselves to you during your ante natal visits. This will be discussed with the Team leaders to ensure that all staff are reminded about how important this is. Finally, we were delighted that you felt your elective caesarean was first class and that the staff took time to listen to you. Thank you for your comments.

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