"Unpleasant words from midwife"

About: University College Hospital Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Wing / Maternity

(as the patient),

I had been having regular contractions whilst 31 weeks pregnant. As advised I attended to Maternal Fetal Assessment Unit for review.

I waited for 50 minutes then was called in to be trialed by a Midwife. She did not introduce herself but explained the Unit was very busy and that she was just going to check for baby's heart sounds whilst a colleague who was still in the room finished writing up her notes from a previous patient. I said this was fine by me.

She then turned to her colleague and said Ok, just have to use the monitor to check we have a live baby here, I'll be done in a minute. I was shocked.

I said I could feel lots of baby movement so I pretty sure my baby was alive. She then tried to find baby's heart beat. She couldn't find it so hooked me up to the monitor. She found it and told me it sounded fine. I have a fast heart rate in pregnancy and told her that I thought she was monitoring my heart rate not my babies. She made no attempt to check my pulse so I prompted her again explaining I was seeing a specialist for my fast heart rate in pregnancy. At this point she checked my pulse, realised she had made a mistake and set about repositioning the monitor to find baby's heart rate, which she was able to fairly quickly.

I was then asked to return to the waiting room. She did not ask what had brought me to the unit, did not take my vital signs, apart from my pulse when I prompted her to and asked me few questions. Thankfully I was seen later by a delightful final year student midwife and an obstetric registrar, both of whom provided good quality, sensitive care. I reported my experience to the lead Midwife for the unit who appeared horrified by her colleagues comment and incompetent assessment of baby's heart sounds. She apologised for any distress and was keen to ensure my complaint was handled at whatever level I wanted it to be. I explained I just wanted the Midwife to know how unpleasant her words had been and how concerned I was by what I'd describe as her slapdash approach to checking whether the heart sounds she was monitoring were mine or my babies. I am a nurse and am aware that this is a common error made in maternal and fetal assessment that can have very serious consequences.

I explained that all I wished to happen was that no woman visiting the Unit in the future have the unpleasant and clinically unsafe experience I and my baby had received from this Midwife, rather the fantastic care of the staff that took care of us later.

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Response from University College Hospital Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Wing

Thank you for taking the time to feed back to us. We are very sorry to hear about your recent experience of the Fetal Medicine Unit at UCLH.

We are pleased to hear that you spoke with the Lead Midwife and that she addressed your concerns, and that you experience with the final year student midwife and an obstetric registrar was much more positive.

If you wish to discuss this further you could contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) via pals@uclh.nhs.uk or by calling 020 3447 3042 so that we can look into this.