"Extremely disappointing experience"

About: St Thomas' Hospital (London)

I gave birth at St Thomas’ on 26th March. Despite the fact that I have moved to East London, I decided to go ahead with my initial plan to have the baby there, due to the hospital’s good reputation. However, the experience didn’t live up to the expectations. My waters broke on 25th at 06:00 at which point we went to the hospital, as per the advice on the phone. There I was seen by a midwife and as I had no contractions, I was sent home. At around 19:00 on the same day, I was having contractions of about a minute every 2-3 minutes apart. I called the hospital again and their exact words were “If you feel ready to come in, do come.” Upon arrival at the Home from Home, the receptionist asked me in an annoyed way what was the problem. I explained to them and another midwife took me to a room. “You have no contractions, but I'll check you anyway,” the midwife said just by looking at me. The midwife gave me a quite painful check and concluded that I should go back home as I had no contractions. I mentioned that we were an hour away and could we not stay, but the midwife insisted mentioning the following: If you were having contractions you would be screaming like an animal now, you will come tomorrow morning and they will induce you. I also mentioned that I wanted an epidural and the midwife said they were going to give me one in the morning. As far as I know and have seen the hospital has an early labour room, were we could have waited.

Half-way through to East London, my contractions became much stronger and by the time we got home, I could barely walk from pain. Half an hour later, we were on the way to the hospital again. Upon arrival after 22:00 the doors at the car park, were locked. As we were instructed at the antenatal class we rang the bell, but the doors seemed pretty locked and they wouldn’t open. On a wheelchair and carrying all my hospital bags, my fiancé wheeled me to the main entrance and up the maternity ward again. At the reception another annoyed receptionist asked me what was my problem, although it was very obvious. The receptionist took me to a room at the home from home, and in a mocking tone, they told the other midwives “she’s saying she wants to push” I started getting undressed but I mentioned the epidural again, so they took me out of this room and in the birth centre. Clearly my birth notes had been ignored.

By that time I was fully dilated and the anaesthetist was already in theatre, so as soon as the anaesthetist came out, I could have the epidural. That was not true, since there would be no point in having an epidural at that stage. The baby was born in about 40 minutes. We spent 3 nights at the hospital as due to the lack of staff  the doctors could never see us on the day we were told. We had to chase the midwives to be seen eventually and during the long waits no one came to update us.

I was very happy to be discharged from St. Thomas’ and I’m not planning to go back there ever again, if I can avoid it. One of the worst experiences I had.

Story from NHS Choices

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Response from St Thomas' Hospital

Thank you for taking the time to describe your experience. We really appreciate your courage and willingness to revisit the frustrating and distressing experience you had, during your baby’s birth here on 26/03/2016 and want you to feel reassured that the

Midwifery Management Team will be taking appropriate measures to ensure lessons are learnt.

We were very disappointed to hear your description of events surrounding your arrival of the Home from Home birth centre during the early evening on 25th March.

It was so unfortunate that you were treated so impersonally and were sent home in such extreme circumstances. It appears that the midwife did not appreciate how rapidly your labour was progressing or show any insight into how you were feeling.

We are sorry that you were not listened too and made to believe you were not in labour. It must have been so stressful for you and your fiancé – especially as you had to travel so far.

You must appreciate that you did do very well. It is just such a shame that the moment of birth, which should have been so joyous and fulfilling, was a time of fear and stress. It is so unfair that you did not have the time/opportunity to have an epidural as everything was so rushed.

You are clearly a strong woman and your preparation for labour and birth must have been considerable and thus your frustration at the management of your labour is entirely understandable.

Your email outlines the various different aspects of your ‘care’ which were unacceptable, please do be assured you that the Midwifery Management Team will follow these up.

Our staff need to understand how their poor communication skills adversely affected your whole experience. This will unfortunately be of little use to you but will hopefully improve the situation for other women to follow.

Thank you so much for addressing your concerns so openly. We hope that w have reassured you of our commitment to try to resolve the situation.

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