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"Sylvia Pankhurst Centre- Termination of Pregnancy"

About: Mile End Hospital

(as the patient),

I had an appointment for a Monday morning. I arrived promptly and was met by a friendly and understanding receptionist. She gave me a pack to read through which contained information leaflets on the two types of termination of pregnancy (medical via tablets or surgical) and details of the NHS service at the centre. I was directed to wait in the waiting room.

The waiting room is very minimal and not a particularly relaxing or 'warm' environment. There are no magazines or distracting literature and paint is peeling off the walls - it is a little bit shabby but understand that maintenance is not always high on the priority list, particularly with limited NHS funding. There was a TV which was not turned on. There were children's books in the corner which I didn't think was particularly appropriate in the situation. There was a man waiting for his partner which some other patients may also find unsettling/unusual. 

I was first met by a lovely nurse. She was very friendly, understanding and calm. She spoke clearly and went through everything in detail. She gave me time to give my reasons, run through medical history and allowed me to talk. She did not interrupt or pass any judgement. She advised as to how the rest of the consultation would be carried out over the course of the morning. There are various appointments. Firstly, an initial run through with the nurse; secondly, a scan with the doctor and then a decision on which treatment; thirdly, booking the appointment with reception and finally, a blood test which is carried out downstairs in the main body of the hospital. 

After this, I was feeling at ease and supported. I then waited around 20-30 minutes in the waiting room to be collected by the doctor. Unfortunately, this is where my experience went downhill. The specialist doctor collected me from the waiting room and took me into a 'treatment room'. This is where you have a scan to establish the pregnancy and how far along you are. They didn't really say hello, tended to mumble and didn't look me in the eye at all. I had to make an effort to stare and engage by being overly verbose so that I would get a response. I was told to lie on the bed so a scan could be taken. Not much more was explained - no advance warning such as 'oh, this might be cold', how long it would take, how was I feeling and to take my time. They took the scan and told me how far along the pregnancy was. The doctor obtained the images and seemed a bit careless in holding them around so I could see the images. I think some women may find this distressing as it almost personifies the entire process. 

I was then taken to a consultation room. I was simply asked what option I wanted to select - either medical or surgical. I had to probe as to the advantages and disadvantages of either. The doctor seemed in a rush and wanted me to choose medical as they had slots available that day. I wasn't ready to make that decision there and then as I hadn't anticipated doing it the same day. I also had various work commitments. It came across as pressured to use up the space and get it over and done with. I opted for surgical as I was further along and I would be able to arrange holiday from work for this procedure. Again, very minimal communication and eye contact took place. It was the first time I had felt judged about my decision. This may not have been the doctor's intention, but their attitude was distant and standoffish. I was advised as to some of the risks associated with the procedure. I had to probe further into these and ask questions. I also noted that the sticker on the consent form outlined far more risks than I had been told. I read through the acknowledgement and declaration carefully. As part of the declaration, you state that you have received a copy of the consent form. I requested this so that I could make the correct statement and the doctor was surprised and questioned whether I actually wanted this. Personally, I would not sign something without having had all prior information and documents that I am entitled to, as this may be important in future (in particular if complications arose). I was then told to go to reception and finalise my booking. No goodbye - I wished them a good day and said thank you but they didn't even look up from their desk. I felt totally ignored and unsupported. 

Thankfully, the receptionist was friendly and explained where I would need to go for the treatment and what I would need to bring. I was then sent down to have a blood test. I collected a ticket and waited some time to have blood samples taken. The nurse was friendly and distracting. This was over very quickly.

Overall, I found the process a mixed bag. I found the nurse excellent but was disappointed by the demeanour of the doctor. This needs to be improved for others in future as it can be a worrying time and may cause more distress to some women. I would never like to name and shame but this is a very significant decision and I think it is important that appropriate steps can be taken so that women feel supported and the experience is as best as possible.