"I gave birth to my first baby ..."

About: Luton & Dunstable Hospital

(as the patient),

What I liked

I gave birth to my first baby at the L&D in October 2008. I cannot praise the wonderful staff highly enough. Despite being very obviously understaffed they were caring and respectful at all times. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the delivery room and showers were both clean (if a little shabby!)

What could be improved

Both my husband and I were quite shocked by how understaffed the delivery ward seemed. We arrived out of hours and waited for quite some time in the entry vestibule (not sure how long exactly, but 3 contractions passed) for someone to answer the intercom and let us in. Eventually a cleaner let us in through the reception area. We then had a 45 minute wait in what appeared to be a visitors' waiting room before being officially checked in and given a room. There were no available midwives when I felt the urge to push and so I was asked to wait until one was available (surprisingly hard to do!) I had rang the buzzer 3 times and waited 40 minutes in total before a midwife was available. My son was nearly when she came in the room and I've never seen anyone don a pair of gloves so fast! We do laugh about it now, but we were all alone at the time and quite worried. I also asked for a pillow many times during my labour but never received one. Breastfeeding support in the hours directly after the birth could have also been improved quite a lot. Again, the problem was understaffing. A lady sent in to clean my room (who had breastfed her own children) was the only person who was able to spend any time helping me. By the end of my first 2 hours feeding marathon I had a blister and was bleeding from one of my nipples. I asked for advice but no one was able to help. Within 24 hours I had developed mastitis and, later, an absess.

Anything else?

I would highly recommend the L&D's staff and midwives, but could not recommend the hospital itself because of the understaffing. That said, I had a largely positive experience - I just worry about what could have happened had my labour and delivery not been so straight forward.

Note: I was discharged directly from my delivery room so can't comment on the post-natal wards.

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Response from Luton & Dunstable Hospital

Thank you for your comments which we take very seriously. Unfortunately there is a national shortage of midwives and many other maternity units have experienced staffing challenges. We are actively recruiting new midwives and plan to increase the number of our maternity care assistants as part of the team. In conjunction with the local PCT we have recently increased our breast feeding support team in order to help our mums to feed both while in hospital and at home. We hope that both you and your baby are doing well.

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