"The facilities and midwives at ..."
About: Royal Free Hospital Royal Free Hospital London NW3 2QG
Posted by Alison (as ),
What I liked
The facilities and midwives at Birth Centre are excellent. Really superb. However they are over-stretched, with a sole midwife frequently looking after 2 or 3 labouring women during the time I was there and constantly ringing to try to get more help. Both the fantastic midwives who helped me were in the process of leaving, which may be indicative.
There was no effective communication between the midwives and the medical team, indeed an atmosphere of conflict. The medical team did not communicate effectively with me, either, for example trying to get me to answer questions during contractions. I found them overbearing and unhelpful.
What could be improved
The antenatal care is shambolic. Appointment letters consistently arrive after the appointment date. You can't phone the hospital to make appointments on the number given - once someone answered after 45 minutes but didn't know what the antenatal dept was. In the clinic the consultant was constantly issuing demands that things go faster, so that one stressed midwife pretended I'd been late so that she was off the hook. I never saw the same medical staff, no-one had any overview of how my pregnancy was progressing, even when there were problems.
The postnatal ward is worse. I was left there late one evening. No staff came to see me. At midnight I pressed my buzzer for painkillers. No-one came until 0230, when a rude midwife finally arrived. If I had been hemorrhaging I would have died. The bed top was fixed at 45 degrees so that I could neither lie down nor breastfeed properly. There was a handle at the foot but with a catheter and after a 48 hour labour I couldn't possibly get to it or adjust it. At 6 or 7am the bright ceiling lights were turned on, really hurting my newborn's eyes, and preventing him feeding. There was no way to adjust the lighting by individual beds. We were each given two pieces of white bread for breakfast. One woman asked for toast and was shouted at. Eventually a woman (a physio?) came to give me a leaflet and I begged her to get someone to empty my catheter, which was filling up along the tube. This midwife, like everyone else, said 'oh dear your sheets need changing' but did nothing about it. My bed and my nightdress were soaked in blood and also sweat because it was so hot. There was blood all over my legs and feet. I had to change the baby on the blood-soaked bed. There was a dirty toilet with tissue all over the floor, but when I tried to go and wash at the basin I had to leave my baby screaming in the ward because there was nowhere to put him down. There was no way I could queue for and use the shower. By the time my husband was let
back in the morning, I was standing weeping in my cubicle holding my crying baby, both of us filthy.
From talking to other women who have given birth there, I'm afraid this experience isn't out of the norm. And the staff know it. The Birth Centre midwives were hugely apologetic about having to take me to the postnatal ward - I only understood why afterwards.
Last thing - I once had to wait in the Day Assessment Unit while the midwife arranged her house insurance on the phone.