"Aberdeen Maternity Hospital"

About: Aberdeen Maternity Hospital / Obstetrics (Maternity care)

(as the patient),

I was scheduled for an elective c section at the AMH. My ante-natal care at AMH had been of a very good standard and I had received mostly excellent care. I was the first scheduled c section of that day. The theatre staff were all excellent. Despite some hitches in theatre (I required 2 spinals as the first one didn’t work sufficiently and the connector to my cannula broke and they couldn’t undo it), the anaesthetist maintained a zen-like aura and all went smoothly. It was the aftercare that I was less impressed with.

I was put on Summerfield ward which was cramped, airless and hugely overheated. I was sweating constantly, and I am not prone to feeling hot usually. As I had had two spinals, I took longer than usual to be able to move and as such I was bed bound with a catheter overnight and into the next day. As you can imagine, this is a less than dignified situation for the woman, with catheter, numbness, pads, attempting to breastfeed, having to be almost naked due to the heat. As such I kept my curtain closed. I was disappointed that many of the staff didn’t re-close my curtain after exiting or entering and one midwife curtly told me she was leaving it open to let air in. A disappointing lack of respect for my wishes and privacy.

My baby was also quite hot and I was doing skin to skin a lot to try to calm her. I put her in the cot briefly whilst I ate a meal and a young midwife rather rudely told me I couldn’t leave her wrapped in two blankets as ‘she was used to 37 degs C and needed to be dressed in bodysuit, sleepsuit, and two blankets’. I am 41, a sensible former scientist, this was my second baby and I know when my baby is or isn’t too hot or cold. She was far too hot wrapped up like that and I was only leaving her for maybe 10 mins in the cot, after which I was resuming skin to skin so I undressed her again. I found this attitude condescending and unwelcome.

Visitors (non partners) were allowed between 2 and 8 pm. I think these visiting hours are far too long. At one point there were 23 people in our small room which contained 5 or 6 beds. It seemed there were no limits to the number of visitors a woman could have at once and some were extremely noisy. I was trying to establish breastfeeding and every few seconds my newborn baby was startled by someone shouting, swearing, scraping a chair, rattling a trolley, banging a door or turning up their TV because their baby was crying. Children were also visiting who were very loud and not controlled and were in well after 8pm. As a result my baby wasn’t feeding or latching, was crying and fussing and I was getting very hot and flustered.

The paediatrician came to check my baby and I told him about the difficulties I was having breastfeeding and he told me I could always supplement with formula. I think that is completely inappropriate advice. My baby was less than 24 hrs old! I didn’t need to give her formula, I needed a quiet, private place to breastfeed, and perhaps some help from a breastfeeding counsellor or midwife. To supplement with formula at that stage would have seriously risked the establishment of breastfeeding and been detrimental to infant gut health. She was in not dehydrated or seeming to be overly hungry. It seems to me that the quick and easy option of supplementing with formula is taken far too often, rather than investing some time in helping women initiate/establish breastfeeding.

Finally, my partner (who is the father of our baby and an excellent, very competent father), took our baby into the corridor just outside our room to calm her down, wind her and let her cool down as she was overheating and crying a lot in the noisy, hot ward. He was told by a senior midwife that he was a health and safety hazard! She ushered him into a side room and told him he couldn’t walk up and down the corridor! How ridiculous. That was the final straw and I self-discharged against medical advice (in tears) and we left the hospital. I now have rather marred memories of my first day and a half with my baby.

I understand that AMH is an old building and a new wing/maternity hospital is planned. In the meantime, I have some suggestions to improve the experience on Summerfield ward:

• Turn the heating down. I understand that babies need to be kept warm, but it was sauna-like and oppressively hot.

• Turn the lighting down or turn off some of the overhead lighting units. It was so bright, and when babies (and immobile mothers) are looking straight up into the lights it is headache-inducingly bright.

• Reduce the visiting hours for non partners and limit the number of visitors each person can have to two at any one time. Ask that visitors be considerate and quiet and enforce this.

• Ask staff to respect the wishes of the woman when it comes to curtains closed or open.

• Ask staff to not consider fathers as health and safety risks, but as important people who should be welcomed onto the ward to bond with their baby and help their partner.

• Use the side rooms, especially for breastfeeding/c section mothers. There were two which were vacant the whole time I was in Summerfield ward. I realise that for midwives, checking on patients in private rooms is more time consuming but I think the benefits to mothers from the increased level of privacy and lower noise levels would be worth doing. I understand that from a nursing point of view, individual rooms are trickier to keep an eye on but from a patient’s point of view, the ability to sleep, breastfeed and recover with greater privacy is extremely valuable.

• Link up with the NCT (National Childbirth Trust). They train excellent breastfeeding counsellors and their equivalent are unfortunately not available on the NHS. Midwives are very busy, often too busy to sit down and take the time to assist with breastfeeding and in my experience their expertise in this area is often sketchy. NCT breastfeeding consellors are more than willing to come into AMH for free and help women breastfeed but it seems AMH staff do not ask them to do so or often do not know they exist. If the talk of encouraging breastfeeding is to be more than just talk, practical steps like this should be taken to help women breastfeed.

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Response from Linda Oldroyd, Nurse Consultant, Person Centred Care, NHS Grampian

Dear new mum

Thank you for taking the time to post your feedback at what must be a very busy time for you. I hope things are going well now that you are at home with your baby. Your story contains many potential learning points which I will share with the manager of the area. I will ask her to respond to your comments and to the helpful suggestions you have made for improvement. It is always disappointing to get negative feedback but we must see this as an opportunity to make things better for other new mums. The new hospital is some years away so if we can be better at what we do in our current environment then we must strive to do so.

If you would like to talk over your concerns please do get in touch. I can be contatced on 01343567900 or by email at loldoryd@nhs.net

In the meantime I will ask the manager of the area to provide a more specific response.

Let me thank you for your kind words about our theatre staff. Some services are less visible than others and do not always get the praise they deserve so they will appreciate your comments.

Kind regards

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Response from NHS Grampian

Dear new mum

The NHS Grampian Head of Midwifery has provided the following information:

I would like to thank you for your feedback, both positive and negative as well as your constructive suggestions for improving care in the postnatal area. I am very sorry that this was your experience as this is not the one that I expect women to have. We always want to improve our service and learn from the feedback that we receive whether it concerns the environment, communication and information giving or staff attitudes. I am aware that you have sent your feedback into NHS Grampian Feedback Service and we will be making contact with you and would like to have the opportunity of meeting with you to discuss your concerns.

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