"The facilities and midwives at ..."

About: Royal Free Hospital

(as the patient),

What I liked

The facilities and midwives at Birth Centre are excellent. Really superb. However they are over-stretched, with a sole midwife frequently looking after 2 or 3 labouring women during the time I was there and constantly ringing to try to get more help. Both the fantastic midwives who helped me were in the process of leaving, which may be indicative.

There was no effective communication between the midwives and the medical team, indeed an atmosphere of conflict. The medical team did not communicate effectively with me, either, for example trying to get me to answer questions during contractions. I found them overbearing and unhelpful.

What could be improved

The antenatal care is shambolic. Appointment letters consistently arrive after the appointment date. You can't phone the hospital to make appointments on the number given - once someone answered after 45 minutes but didn't know what the antenatal dept was. In the clinic the consultant was constantly issuing demands that things go faster, so that one stressed midwife pretended I'd been late so that she was off the hook. I never saw the same medical staff, no-one had any overview of how my pregnancy was progressing, even when there were problems.

The postnatal ward is worse. I was left there late one evening. No staff came to see me. At midnight I pressed my buzzer for painkillers. No-one came until 0230, when a rude midwife finally arrived. If I had been hemorrhaging I would have died. The bed top was fixed at 45 degrees so that I could neither lie down nor breastfeed properly. There was a handle at the foot but with a catheter and after a 48 hour labour I couldn't possibly get to it or adjust it. At 6 or 7am the bright ceiling lights were turned on, really hurting my newborn's eyes, and preventing him feeding. There was no way to adjust the lighting by individual beds. We were each given two pieces of white bread for breakfast. One woman asked for toast and was shouted at. Eventually a woman (a physio?) came to give me a leaflet and I begged her to get someone to empty my catheter, which was filling up along the tube. This midwife, like everyone else, said 'oh dear your sheets need changing' but did nothing about it. My bed and my nightdress were soaked in blood and also sweat because it was so hot. There was blood all over my legs and feet. I had to change the baby on the blood-soaked bed. There was a dirty toilet with tissue all over the floor, but when I tried to go and wash at the basin I had to leave my baby screaming in the ward because there was nowhere to put him down. There was no way I could queue for and use the shower. By the time my husband was let

Anything else?

back in the morning, I was standing weeping in my cubicle holding my crying baby, both of us filthy.

From talking to other women who have given birth there, I'm afraid this experience isn't out of the norm. And the staff know it. The Birth Centre midwives were hugely apologetic about having to take me to the postnatal ward - I only understood why afterwards.

Last thing - I once had to wait in the Day Assessment Unit while the midwife arranged her house insurance on the phone.

Story from NHS Choices

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Response from Royal Free Hospital

Thank you for your comments regarding our maternity service. We are very keen to receive feedback and now have a system in place that enables women to speak to someone first hand when they have experienced care that was less than satisfactory.

Our matrons cover all aspects of our service and they are available to support women and their families. In addition, our consultant midwife, Amanda Mansfield, offers a debriefing service every Wednesday afternoon in her clinic. You can make an appointment to see her then by calling 020 7530 3207.

We are pleased that your experience on the birth centre was positive and you found our midwives there helpful. However, we understand that aspects of your care demonstrated a lack of professional communication on the part of our maternity team.

When women report experiences that do not reflect the behaviour that we have come to expect of our staff, we make every attempt to work this out in a positive way. We have recently improved the clinical leadership on the birth centre and the labour ward and the presence of our senior staff will ensure that the experience you reported is tackled immediately.

Antenatal Care

We are currently undertaking a review of our antenatal services, looking at how women access their care providers, how they can make and change appointments, and who they can contact immediately to get help if they are dissatisfied with their care.

We have appointed three new matrons to our service who will help us improve service delivery to mothers and their families.

Postnatal Care

We now have a dedicated consultant obstetrician working together with the matron on the postnatal ward to improve the overall quality of care and efficiency with which women are seen. We are continuously reviewing ways to improve the care delivered to women after the birth of their baby.

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