"Terrifying ordeal"

About: Croydon University Hospital

My wife was admitted for the birth of our first child. She was categorised as a high risk pregnancy and was forced to travel from another hospital that closed one hour after she arrived there. She arrived exhausted and in great stress. This made her labour very difficult and she eventually reached a state of such exhaustion and threat to her own safety that the doctor instructed her to have an epidural. The anaesthesiologist who attended exhibited shocking lack of skills. Firstly their English was very poor and when they sought to get my wife's permission to administer the epidural they did so in such a confusing and aggressive manner that they scared her rather than reassured her. They even commented on her inability to understand them! She is a College lecturer. The anaesthesiologist then walked off so I had to intervene via the Midwife to get them back as my wife was in great distress. When they did return I was shocked to see how clumsily they handle positioning my wife to insert the needle. I was genuinely concerned that they would cause her permanent and life changing injury as they struggled to place the needle and had to remove and replace the dressings to secure the catheter several times. The anaesthesiologist looked like someone doing it for the first time. They then started to struggle with the machine used to administer the anaesthetic. They kept reading the instructions on the machine out loud and kept pressing the buttons complaining all the time that it was not working. They then sent a nurse to find a second machine. The same struggle ensued and at one point the machine was leaking anaesthetic as they had failed to connect a tube correctly. With some help from the nurse they finally declared that the machine was working and left. I noted as they did so that their badge said only 'Locum' so I cannot identify them. My wife was visited by another anaesthesiologist a few hours later prior to my wife going into theatre and I observed them checking and adjusting the machine after enquiring why it had been adjusted in such a strange way. The nurses kept saying they only had two machines and that one did not seem to work properly. Happily they seemed to know what they were doing. I felt that my wife was fortunate to survive the whole experience and that her life and that of our unborn child had been put at severe risk.

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Response from Croydon University Hospital

Thank you for taking the time to bring this to our attention. We are truly sorry to hear about the experience you have described, which clearly falls below the high standard of care we endeavour to provide for the women who use our maternity services. We have passed on these details to the senior members of the maternity team who will look into the issues that you have raised. If you would like to be kept informed of our progress in looking into this issue, please get in touch with our PALS and Complaints team, who are also able to take any further information you may wish to give about your experience and the staff who were treating your wife. You can contact the PALS and Complaints team at complaints@croydonhealth.nhs.uk or on 020 8410 3352.

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