"ADU- avoid at all costs"

About: St Thomas' Hospital (London)

On Monday 2nd March 2015 at 3pm I arrived at ADU as I have had a lot of watery discharge and was worried that my waters have broken or that I was leaking and the risk of infection. By 1030pm I was still waiting to be seen and every time I asked what my number was in the queue the number was increasing. I didn't mind waiting at first as there were other women in the corridor who have been there longer than me and clearly in labour as they were trying to walk off their contractions and they still haven't been seen, at least I wasn't in pain. After midwifes heard them moan and groan they would come up to them and ask if they were feeling like pushing, to which these poor women replied that they didn't and the midwifes were saying to them that they would try and find them a bed soon. I honestly could not believe this was possible in this country. I watched a number of midwife shift changed and I was still sitting there waiting to be seen. After 7.5 hours of leaking water I complained about not being seen to which all I was offered was a sanitary pad, as well as another woman who thought that her waters had broken. The midwifes were so understaffed and so unable to cope with the large number of women that day that one of then burst out crying and ran out of the ward. This was like a bad day in Bosnia and by 1030pm I burst out crying myself about worrying that my baby was in danger and this was because there are no beds! St. Thomas Hospital does not have any plan in place to cope with this increased demand and all I was told was that this is an emergency unit and they see women in terms of their priority which is understandable, however after a number of midwife shifts changed they really didn't have an idea of who was a priority amongst huge pile of orange books stacked in a pile and I had to explain myself again to a midwife who had no clue what i was there for and insist that I was seen after 7.5hr wait as my water might have broken. I have been to an A&E department before but never had to wait for over 7.5hrs! I am now dreading having my baby there as those other poor women who had to labour in the corridor where the temperature is so hot and unbearable! There was no pain relief available and those labouring women were simply neglected due to very limited resources and poor management of the maternity ward. I am nearly 37 weeks pregnant and I will not be back at St. Thomas Hospital as the consultant clearly explained that this is such a busy hospital ad they can not guarantee me the basic level of expected care as well as the bed and any pain relief! Stay away from this hospital as it can not cope with the demand! There is no point in their wonderful equipment if there are only 6 beds available on the ADU unit... Very sad state of this famous hospital....

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Response from St Thomas' Hospital

The Matron responsible for ADU has read your comments and has given the following response: ‘I can only apologise for your very distressing experience. ADU is like an emergency service and it can be very difficult for us to predict the number of women who will come to ADU. On a normal day, we assess around 40 women a day. We have a 4 hour acceptable wait and we do investigate and escalate as a risk (communicate to the most senior level for urgent action) each time we breach that waiting time. On that particular day we did breach our waiting time and this has been highlighted as a risk. On this day, 75 women were seen in ADU between 8am and 8pm and a further 15 during the first part of the night. This day has been for us the busiest ever in ADU. The staff were under huge pressure looking after the unexpected volume of admissions. This was escalated on the day and every senior member of staff was involved in trying to keep the place as safe as possible. I am very sorry that your only experience of ADU has been on the busiest day ever. We are continuously looking at how to improve the service. Part of the plans are to encourage women to call the phone line before coming as some advice can be given over the phone. For some conditions, the GP or the community midwife could be the first point of contact. Asking women to call before coming could also help us to anticipate the workload. We are in the process of designing a leaflet to explain what ADU is about and what to expect when coming. We can assure you that the issues that arose on this busiest day are in the process of being investigated. I hope you will accept our sincere apology.’

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