"My experience of the Newark and Sherwood Midwifery Service"

About: East Midlands Ambulance Service NHS Trust / Emergency ambulance Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

(as the patient),

I wish to write to complain about the midwifery services I received during my recent pregnancy and birth in 2015.

I had my booking appointment with the local midwife at Southwell - I had this appointment at 7 weeks and she outlined the various appointments I would need during my pregnancy, mainly with herself.

Unfortunately, this member of staff was off work for the majority of my pregnancy. This meant that other midwives were required to fill her role. I understood this, however I was disappointed by the number of different midwives I saw at the various appointments.

I had been booked onto an antenatal class at 30 weeks pregnant, being run in Southwell. On the day of the class I arrived just before the start time to find no-one else was there. It turned out that due to my midwife being off no one else had been able to cover the class. I was rather annoyed that I had not been informed that the class had been cancelled, particularly as I had arranged for my mum to come from the other side of Nottingham to look after my eldest child as the class was being run during half term. I rang up to enquire about this mistake and was informed that the midwife services had not realised that I was booked on the class. They had informed the other ladies that were booked on that it had been cancelled but had missed me. I inquired when another class would be run in Southwell and was told that they would not be running any more whilst my midwife was away as no one would be available to run it. I was given the option of booking myself on to another class being run elsewhere in the County however without a car it was very difficult for me to get to these. In the end I did not manage to attend a class. I was disappointed at this not only as the information taught may have been useful, but because I was looking forward to meeting other mums-to-be from Southwell and building a network of people I could go to for advice and 'mummy support' once the baby had arrived. This would not be possible if the mums are from places such as Ravenshead and Sutton-in-Ashfield, two of the areas that I was directed towards if I wished to still attend an antenatal class.

My next antenatal appointment was at 34 weeks and I was booked in to see the midwife at Southwell medical centre again. Knowing that my midwife was still away I rang the medical centre reception to find out if my 34 week appointment was still going ahead. I was informed that they could not confirm either way as the midwives run their own schedule on the computer system. They could however confirm that there was one other lady booked into the midwifery clinic that morning, although strangely the rest of the clinic was 'blocked out' on the system. As such I was advised to ring the maternity community advice line to find out what the situation was. I did this and was told that they assumed that if I was booked in on the system a midwife would definitely be in attendance that morning. I rang again 2 days before my appointment to reconfirm my booking and was told again that my appointment would go ahead. When I arrived that day I waited for half an hour whilst the receptionist at the medical centre rang the community advice line to try and find out why no midwife had showed up to the clinic. She was unable to get through to anyone so she then tried the emergency line. She was told that because the area was under staffed no one could attend the clinic that day. Again no-one had rung me, or the other lady who was booked in alongside me, of this cancellation.

I was made aware that the area to which Southwell belongs has seen the loss of three members of their team, and as of yet no one has been found to replace them. Then when my midwife went off they were left even more understaffed. Knowing that there were these vacancies I would have thought it prudent for more staff to have been employed or at the least for a consistent locum, so that the ladies who attend the clinic at Southwell got some consistency throughout their pregnancy.

On a separate point I am concerned about the inability to get through to anybody on the community advice line. I was told to ring this number if I had any non-emergency questions. On several occasions when I tried to call the number my phone rang and rang until eventually I was cut off due to the unavailability of anybody at the other end. I could understand if it had happened once or twice but this happened repeatedly and was very frustrating, particularly when there was nobody available at the clinics being held in Southwell on a Monday or Thursday due to the midwife being off.

My final complaint about the midwife services is regarding the midwives that arrived when I was in labour. At the start of my contractions I rang the emergency phone number. I was initially put through to a lady who was not trained to a sufficient level to be able to give me advice. I was told that she would find somebody else to speak to me and that they would call back later. This was not very reassuring considering I was now in labour! About 15 minutes later my call was returned and I was told, despite informing the midwife that my labour was only six and a half hours long last time, from the first twinge to our daughter being born, to wait until my contractions were 3 minutes apart and slightly longer, even though there were currently only 4 minutes apart and lasting 30 seconds. I ended up calling the midwives an hour and twenty minutes later when my contractions suddenly went from being manageable to very intense and needing pain relief. My son was born only an hour later without any paramedics or midwives in attendance due to the length of time it took for the midwives to get to my house. I feel that it would have been beneficial, knowing that the midwives on call that night were about 45 minutes drive from Southwell, for them to have sent somebody out after my first call instead of telling me to wait, especially when they knew that my previous labour had been so short.

When the midwives arrived and assessed my situation I was told that I would need stitches. The midwives had not arrived with a torch to be able to get a good look at the area requiring stitches and asked the paramedics if they could borrow their torch. The torch supplied by the paramedics was not bright enough and so one of the midwives resorted to pointing her phone at my nether regions, using the flashlight in the back of the phone to illuminate me. It was only after the stitches had been completed (I had been breathing entonox and was a bit spaced out) that I realised the midwives could have asked if they could turn the main lights in our living room on! Whilst I admire her ingenuity in locating a light source, I think it very unprofessional to have arrived without a torch and to be pointing a phone at a woman's 'private' region.

After my complaints above I would like to finish on a couple of more positive notes. Since our baby was born I must give a word of praise to the staff that have looked after me at home. I have been visited regularly by both midwives and a health visitor (unfortunately not my local health visitor again as she was on holiday). I feel that during this time I have been given both time and care, a particularly tricky thing to do as our child was born just before Christmas making appointments necessary around Christmas and New Year.

When we realised that the midwives were not going to be arriving in time for the birth the lady on the midwife emergency phone line advised us to call 999 and ask for the paramedics to come out to us. Whilst waiting for their arrival a lady called Angela (an Emergency Medical Dispatcher) stayed on the phone and talked my husband and I through the home birth. She was calm, clear, friendly and reassured us both throughout the whole thing, until the paramedics arrived. I was so impressed with her professional and kindly manner and her expert advice over the phone that I called EMAS to find out her full name and where she works. I have since sent her a small gift and thank you card as a token of our gratitude. She was amazing and made the whole home birth (without pain relief) bearable and straight forward!

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