"Was expecting so much more....an horrific start to..."

About: University College Hospital

What I liked

- Birth centre facilities and staff

- Trainee doctor following the delivery - most kind and supportive person I encountered

- Hospital food - surprisingly tasty and varied

- Option to pay for a private room on maternity ward (thank god or I wouldn't have survived til the end of our stay)

- Breastfeeding support post-birth

- Paediatricians - lovely and caring people

What could be improved

- Communication of medical staff to patients

- Involvement of patient in decisions about their care

- Provision of information to patients on what has happened to them and advice on caring for wounds etc.

- Attitude of some of the midwives

- Post natal care on the maternity ward

- Inconsistency of facilities on the maternity ward - tvs in some bays, not others, windowless bays were very claustrophobic

- The "maternity-ness" of the ward - why no breastfeeding pillows? rubber rings? ice packs? Why are the chairs so hard as to be impossible for a new mum to sit on?

- Provision for partners to stay on the maternity ward - unimaginable and ridiculous that new mothers, fresh out of labour and having been awake for who knows how long and suffering who knows what injuries as a result, are expected to instantly start to care for their baby alone at night, particularly when staff are so variable in their willingness to help. Partners should all be allowed to stay. I felt unimaginable terror, exhaustion and confusion in suddenly having sole care of my fragile new baby when I hadn't slept in 3 days, having sustained serious injuries and needing a blood transfusion. I wouldn't be surprised if this kind of experience leads to PND in some women - I was on the edge for my entire stay.

Anything else?

If things don’t progress normally the hospital decide they can do what they want with you without any discussion. Out of 6 fetal blood samples, my son had one “borderline” one (the rest were great) and as a result I was told I would not be pushing myself, and would have to have either a forceps or caesarian delivery. I was aiming for forceps but wasn’t told about the necessary episiotomy until the last minute when I asked. Despite it apparently being a “straightforward forceps delivery” (as noted on discharge note) I sustained a serious 3rd degree tear, and received no explanation as to why or even what this tear involved. It was recorded as both grade 3a and 3b in my notes. We had to stay on the maternity ward for 5 days due to a rash my son developed and it was hell. Midwives moving me there banged my bed against doors and walls – despite my injuries, causing pain. Partners were not allowed to stay (due to “low staff numbers overnight” apparently) and it was horrific attempting to care for my new baby when I could hardly move, I got about 3 hours sleep over 4 nights. Some of the midwives acted as though I was an inconvenience when I asked for assistance in the night, and some were just plain rude and brought me to tears. Advice differed depending who you spoke to – I was berated by a midwife because there was a towel in my baby’s cot, even though another nurse had put it there the night before – the same nurse also left dirty latex gloves in the cot. Notes for another mother and baby were wrongly written in my record – slightly concerning in terms of confidentiality. We were assured we would be going home on day 3 after the birth, then when that day came we were told no, 2 more days – extremely distressing. All in all, UCHL seems unconcerned about getting new mums and their babies off to a good start. I will never ever go back.

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Response from University College Hospital

Thank you for taking the time to give your comments. We really value feedback to help us try and improve our maternity services. Whilst it is not possible to comment on an individual’s personal experiences of our maternity services we would like to assure you we take all feedback very seriously. It was good to hear the positive comments about our Birth Centre facilities and some of our staff especially the trainee doctor following your birth and our paediatricians.

Since August 2011 we have undertaken CARE rounds on our maternity care ward where senior members of our wider maternity team visit women who are on the maternity care ward ask them face to face about their experiences of our services. Everyday we feedback directly to our staff. We also use the information we get from listening to women’s experiences give us to address our systems and process that might help improve our care.

We have also increased our midwifery establishment in our unit recently. We have also increased the number of maternity care assistants on our

Maternity care ward and are introducing intentional rounding to ensure women are offered help, explanations and feel more cared for on our post natal ward.

We are also exploring ways in which we can extend visiting hours for partners to stay overnight for those women who wish them to. However this is work in progress because we have to protect other women’s privacy, some of whom may not wish to have partners, many of them men staying overnight in our 4 bedded open bay.

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