"Some excellent practice, but improvements possible"
About: The Whittington Hospital The Whittington Hospital London N19 5NF
I had my first baby at the Whittington recently. I ended up having an elective Caesarian after complications and I felt very listened to and involved in the decision making around this. The Caesarian was, for me, a first class experience. The team were amazing, from the midwife booking me in, to the team during the procedure and member of the team following up. The labour ward where I recovered was cramped and noisy, which made the recovery the worse part of my experience. I had little sleep as all the babies cried all night and there was little privacy (you can hear personal conversations through the curtains). This is an issue which reflects a lack of funding for better facilities. I know the Whittington has a lovely new Birth Centre, but please don't forget the labour ward, where some of the mums with the more protracted and complicated births end up. The midwives on the labour ward were caring and working hard, although I think it helped that my partner stayed with me, sleeping on the fold back chair and advocating for me. There were times that I could see that the midwives were stretched, and for this reason, my discharge was delayed for several hours as no one was free to facilitate this. Generally, the midwives when I was an inpatient were very good and my experience of maternity triage was excellent on the occasion I went there. I'm afraid my experience of the community midwives was less good. There was, in my view, some inconsistency in experience and skill. When I was discharged and my baby was having feeding difficulties (turns out she had a tongue tie) I was told a midwife would visit me at home within 24 hours, but it took 3 days with me phoning them on several occasions. When I did pin one down, she said she had '10 mothers to see in one day so couldn't tell me when she'd come' which reflects the pressure they're under, but also indicated a lack of professionalism as this is information a stressed out new mum doesn't need to hear. During my antenatal visits, I had to prompt people sitting in with the midwife to introduce themselves on several occasions. This strikes me as a professional courtesy, given the personal content of the discussions. It made me doubt their training on other fundamentals such as confidentiality. In all, I'd recommend the Whittington mat service, but I suspect the Birth Centre is a better experience. A side room on the labour ward makes a world of difference (we got one on the last night after a campaign of attrition by my other half!) The staff were, without exception, working hard and doing their best, and some individuals were truly exceptional. Where the experience fell down was (1) poor facilities on the labour ward, and (2) overstretched community midwives, both of which are linked to funding issues (and the latter, to recruitment issues no doubt). I also feel that the overall management of the community midwives could be overhauled to improve communication, training, organisation and build morale.