Tuesday, 9 March 2010

JOIN IN- Campaign for Better Complaints Procedures on Pre/Post Natal Wards

I am writing this in support of Its a Mummy's Life's brilliant blog and discussion at BMB (note if you're not a member you will need to sign up first to see the discussion, but its well worth it!). And for all those who commented with their truly shocking experiences. Its going to be a long post, so apologies!

The jist of the post and discussion was that she had had an absolutely appalling time when she had her first (beautiful) daughter due to the lack of staff, advice and the rudeness of the staff on the Post Labour ward.

I can sympathise.

I had an awful time of it with both my labours.

With Mini, I had an Elective Section for medical reasons. When I made the decision to go for an elective over natural, it wasn't just that I had medical reasons, to me it was the knowledge that I would know when and how my child would be born, and would not wet myself with fear! I could prepare for it.

On the 5th April 2007, I went into Medway Hospital, as we were living in Kent still, at 7am, all psyched up and ready (and starving hungry as you can't eat or drink after 10pm the night before).

I was told to go have a shower and stick some surgical clothing on, and they would be with my shortly.

At 8.30am, I was all ready- Elder (still known as Ed at the time as there was only one Ed in the house!) had got the camera ready, the birthing CD all there, and so we sat and waited.

And waited....

And waited.

By 9.30am, I was a little concerned, as no one had popped back since the Midwife who had told me to go get showered and changed at 7.15.

I thought I'd better wait, after all, I thought, Maternity Wards are busy.

But after another hour had gone by, I rang the buzzer.
A different Mdwife came over. I was polite, just enquired as to what was happening. She barked at me that I was 3rd on the list, and as an Emergency situation may be about to arise, I'd be waiting even longer. She honestly made me feel like one of those Gym Slip 13 year old Mums to be, and was condescending in the extreme. I felt like I was being a pain in the backside, when I think considering it had taken me 3 hours to speak up I was being very kind!

At 12pm, I was near tears. Elder was starving himself, but felt rotten going to get a cuppa or a sandwich as I couldn't eat. There was still no one keeping me informed. I had started to panic, even saying to Elder that I thought they'd forgotten me. He laughed it off, but I wasn't far off.

At 2pm, little did I know at the time that the staff do a Change Over, where a new set of staff come in, and are briefed by the old lot, so the ward becomes a ghost town for staff as they all disappear for 45 minutes into a little room off the ward. God knows what would've happened if a Mum to be had gone into full labour, or had collapsed for another reason-we were all on that ward for special reasons due to health or breech issues- as they'd never have heard us ringing the buzzer.

At 3pm, I had seriously got the hump. I asked Elder to go over to the desk, and asked to know what the hell was going on, and even said to say that if they were too busy I'd go home and come back in a few days.
He was ignored and stood there for ages while she continued what was obviously a personal call, and finally was glared at by the desk Midwife. She was very uninterested in him telling her I'd been there since 7am and had seen two people in all that time, was starving hungry and had had enough. She just asked who I was, and what bed I was in. When he told her, she told him (like he was daft), that I had already gone, and was probably in recovery, and showed him my name crossed off on the board.

Now, Elder is NOT one to mince his words- he worked in a Hospital for a few years, and couldn't believe how badly this ward was being run. He pointed out that he had just left me, crying, in bed, on their ward. My name, apparently, hadn't even been mentioned at the Change Over.

She assured him someone would be up shortly.

At 5pm, guess what? Yep, still sat there, still no one coming over, still losing the will to deliver a child at all, and feeling sick with hunger and dehydrated with thirst (the ward we were on, in April and in heat had its heating on full blast). So Elder had to make a call to a neighbour, as we still had the two dogs back then, and bless them, they had been stuck in since we left in the morning. He was gone for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, a Surgeon, with a Folder, came to my bed with no Midwife, just her on her own.
I thought finally! Someone who will tell me what the hells going on, and so I smiled at her and tried to cheer up.
Silly me.

She proceeded to literally shout at me that I was wasting her time, the hospitals time and all the other people waiting patiently for Sections time by changing my mind and messing about. She didn't ask my name, or sit down, she just screeched at me, chucking her file on the end of the bed in temper. She told me I was going down to have the section in the next 5 minutes and that was that. I burst into tears, I couldn't help myself, and asked her to let me wait for Elder, as he was making a call. She didn't even let me finish, just continued to harangue me and said that if he wasn't on the ward in 5 minutes I was giving birth alone.
She then stormed out.

Between sobs, I rang Elder on my mobile, shitting myself that if I was caught with it I'd be in even bigger trouble (although I had no idea why I was in trouble in the first place), and he literally ran up 3 flights of stairs. I was inconsolable, and he'd really had a gutful of how I'd been treated and now spoken to, so he went back over to the desk and demanded an apology.

The same person told him she didn't know what he was going on about, as no one had been to speak to me, least of all a surgeon, and that the second person on the list, the person before me, still hadn't gone to surgery yet.She said she'd find out what was going on.

About half an hour later, another new Midwife, a trainee, came over to explain that the Surgeon had got the wrong person. Still no apology was given. But they did say I should go home as there was little chance of me having my section that day. However, I'd need to eat something before I left, and they wanted to put me on a monitor as "prolonged periods with no food can harm the baby". I quickly pointed out that it hadn't been my choice not to eat, but she laughed my comment off, and went to grab me some toast and juice. Coming back, she plonked the plate of toast on the tray table at the end of the bed, and hooked my tummy up to the monitor, meaning I had to lie back. She then wandered off.

Leaving a plate of warm toast and juice, right where I couldn't reach it, but in eyeline of a person who at that point was so hungry she'd have eaten a pillow case given half a chance. 

Another, older Midwife came in to have a look at the read out after another half hour. She then told me not to eat the toast (not that I could reach anyway), as she thought she spotted contractions. She then said she'd be back in a bit, and that she should go have a word with someone else.

Again, not that shockingly, I was left, this time looking at toast and juice (you'd think she'd have taken them), hooked to a monitor, dying for the toilet, but not wanting to move as I thought I was in labour.
At coming on for 8pm, after over 12 and a half hours of basically sitting for the most part being ignored, or shouted at, and starving hungry, fed up, and deciding that this was the last time I would ever get pregnant, the staff changed over again, so yet again, all the current staff disappeared off the ward, for absolutely ages, leaving a whole ward of women alone.

And yet again, I was forgotten about at Change Over. Even though I was hooked up from 5.30ish to a monitor, and still was by 7.30pm, and the Midwife had been so concerned that I was in the throes of labour that I couldn't eat, and she was just going to get someone at 6.00pm, they forgot me again.

The first I knew about this was when another Midwife went to bring a woman and her husband into my bed space, and asked "why are you in a patients bed?" This was at close to 8.30pm.

Well, that was it.

She didn't even apologise, say she was going to find out what the hell was going on, take me off the monitor or look at my notes, she just wandered off in a world of her own (I think she was actually tutting).

Elder had nipped to the loo, and he came back to find me getting dressed and throwing all my stuff back in a bag.

He told me to calm down, and to wait, but then I really lost it with him too and pointed out I'd been waiting since 7am.

Would you believe, one of the Midwifes who had no idea who I was or the situation came in and told us to behave or she'd chuck us out as we were upsetting the other Mums. I really let her have it, and walked out.

Elder stayed and spoke to the lady who'd asked why I was in a patient's bed, whilst the other one chased me down the corridor telling me I obviously "didn't care" about the safety or health of my child, and called me a "silly little girl".

She frogmarched me back to the ward, and I spotted Elder, telling him I'd had enough and what she'd said to me.

Well, then he really lost it, calling the hospital a disgrace, the staff useless, and telling them that if anyone had put the baby at risk it was them.

The only slightly nicer midwife took us into a private room, and asked a senior surgeon to come and talk to us, and she turned at gone 9pm. She did apologise, but said in her view, I would be putting myself at risk having surgery now, as I was tired and clearly emotional- which she pointed out she realised was far from my fault. She booked me in for the 10th, the earliest space they had available, but warned me I could go into labour as the stress could bring it on.

She left, and I walked back onto the ward to collect my bag, only to be met by the nasty Midwife telling me not to expect anything from the dinner cart if I was going home. Charming.

I finally got home after 10pm, a full 24 hours since I'd eaten anything, or drank even a sip of drink. Elder, if I recall made me sausage and chips, which I wolfed down- and about a whole loaf of bread.

My lovely Midwife, Mo, was disgusted when I told her- do you know they'd had the cheek to tell her to pass on if we caused "trouble" on the ward again and "lied" to the surgeons, they would ban us and make us go to another hospital. 

What made it even worse was that I had no choice but to go back to the same ward and the same Midwives all over again. This time, we took Elders eldest (and possibly scariest) Sister with us, and believe me- she would have kicked their arses if they had of tried it on again. We arrived at 3pm, and when I wasn't called in by 3.30, she demanded to know why! Much bowing and scrapping was done that day!

So, why don't we women make complaints when so many of us get treated lower than cattle when we are doing what should be the most natural, and memorable, event in our lives?

Well, I simply became too busy with breast feeding, recovering from surgery, and generally being a busy new Mummy.

My experience with Littlest led me to suffer Post Natal Depression, as he was born 11 weeks early. This time, it was from the start of my pregnancy that things went wrong. Despite the fact I had moved from Kent to Berkshire and the Consultants and Midwife had no notes from my previous pregnancy and labour, and had made no attempts to get copies sent up,  no one listened that I had had complications with Mini, even though without information from the time before I was their only source of information. Suffice to say that when my premature labour could've been averted, it wasn't. I was in a over crowded ward for a week, from the Monday,as my waters broke early and when I went into labour on the Friday, after being told to report even the littlest contractions, a Midwife told me at 2pm, to go away as I didn't know what contractions were and she was busy. By 6pm, I couldn't stand up, and Littlest was born at 8.19pm. Elder didn't even see him being born, as he had been phoned at 7.45pm, and had to drop Mini off at his Brothers house and then go all the way back to our house (a good ten minute run), to jump in his friends van for a lift (he had to drop Mini off walking as we didn't have a car seat, and even in an emergency he was thinking of her safety). I then waited 14 hours to be handed a picture of Littlest, and had convinced myself he had died in the night and they were waiting for Elder and/or his family to tell me in the morning. I finally got to meet my son, and hold his 3 pound 6 weight an hour shy of 24 hours after his birth.

I saw the Midwife who told me to go away, when Littlest had been in Hospital for 3 and a half of the 4 months he spent in Neo Natal care, and she told me, thinking she was funny "Oh well, its your fault cos you should've told us you were in labour." I wanted to ring her bloody neck.

So, I hope you'll join me in lobbying as many Health professionals and MPs as you can manage.

Its often the case that we go through a terrible time due to poor standard of care, but are too caught up in our new family to make a formal complaint.

So how can this change?


I think it is as easy as handing Mums an anonymous questionnaire, asking them to rate different parts of their care and a space to write their own thoughts down. Maybe even a section with names of staff they may have been looked after by to rate them on helpfulness, willingness to  give advice, even their people skills in general- maybe with something as simple as smiley faces to frowns?

These could then be placed in a box in the corridor, and the results be posted monthly on the Hospitals website, and on the ward itself. Those who constantly fall short of the mark could be dealt with appropriately, and I'm sure this would help with staff training, as they would know what they needed to be reminded of.

Let me know your thoughts.


  1. Oh my god, you did go through a hell of a lot with both your births! I honestly dont think I would've been able to control my temper if I was you, especially when you went in for your c-section and were waiting all that time and verbally abused by what sounds like most of the staff!

    So it's steer clear of Medway then, plus Darenth Valley, Queen Mary's and Queen Elizabeth in this area then - thank god I'm moving to Spain!

  2. reading your post brings it all back for me I was ignored belitted and petrified during my labour, my midwife knew that she had let me down as she avoided me for the rest of the time i was in hospital. It makes me so mad!

  3. I had an awful birth with C, in short, induced early, left for 36 hours and the found to have vasa previa, so had to be rushed for emergency c-section, as I should never have been induced. It ended with me being in intensive care for 3 weeks with pneumonia, blood poisioning, fluid in the pelvis, ecoli and a whole list of other things, all down to the section. I tried to complain and was basically told it was my fault! I am so disgusted with the hospital I refuse to ever go there again. I think the complaint idea is a fantastic one, and really hope something happens to help mums when it goes wrong. xxxx

  4. Bloody hell Kate, thats awful! I had Placenta Previa with Littlest, so know just how serious that can be.

    It is just appalling that when women do complain, they are brushed off- with no good reason either. I;'d like to know how they thought you were at fault when they were the medically trained ones?

    Glad this post has provoked others to speak out, hence why I have now started the petition- link is on the latest post, along with a badge in support for anyone who wants to post it?

  5. Ug. I can't imagine being so stressed and fed up when trying to prepare yourself for one of the biggest moments of your life. My hospital experience really wasn't too bad in the grand scheme of things (though not great). Our hospital did offer me a feedback form which I sent in but sadly I had my midwife and postnatal care in a different PCT who didn't give me a feedback form so I wrote to them myself because I was so appalled. My pre and post natal care was atrocious. Waiting, lack of information, lack of staff and general rudeness.


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