"Delivery suite"

About: Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital / Maternity

(as the patient),

I am writing about the service I experienced recently whilst in my 29th week of pregnancy. At 2pm I noticed I was experiencing Braxton hicks and they were frequent – every 3-4 minutes. I Began timing and rested on the sofa.

At 3pm they were still frequent with no let up, so I rang medicom to speak to midwife, she refered me to delivery suite. I spoke to midwife on delivery suite who instructed me to lay on my side with pillow between my knees for an hour and take paracetamol then ring back at 4pm. I took the paracetamol and did as instructed, they seemed to die down but still had some tightening and discomfort so rang again in another hour. By 5pm everything seemed to have stopped, so I rested a while longer and pottered around helping husband prepare dinner. By the time I had eaten dinner at 6: 30 they were back and more painful, so I rang delivery suite again who advised to come in to be monitored and check nothing sinister. We live over an hour from the hospital and don’t have our own transport so I rang my parents who kindly drove me in, we arrived around 8: 30pm. When speaking to the receptionist in the delivery suite she warned me there was a little bit of a wait (I wish I had been warned on the phone, as I live about equidistant to kings Lyn so no reason I could not have attended there just to be monitored if they were full! ) and said that If things got worse to let them know.

When we went into the waiting room it was packed. There were 5 other women waiting to be seen before us and my mother had to stand for over an hour before anyone was seen and made room.

Obviously unlike at home, in the waiting room I was unable to lay down and rest. As a result my Braxton hicks intensified, and at around 2am I went through to let them know they were now very painful. I was informed they had no beds, I was assured I would be seen soon and went back to the waiting room. More than one of the women in the waiting room with us were in early labour, and one lady in particular was now contracting extremely regularly (every 2 minutes or so, with contractions lasting over a minute) and obviously in some distress at enduring many hours of her labour in a room full of 10 strangers with no pain relief. Somebody came in to offer us tea and biscuits and two of the women asked if they could have some paracetamol – they were denied this on the basis that they needed to be seen first. Both had been waiting over 6 hours by this point, and one was no longer able to talk through any contractions and clearly well into established labour.

At 3am I went back again to ask what was happening, as I was now experiencing some severe cervical pain and at only 29 weeks pregnant was anxious to check I was not in premature labour. Again we were told there were no beds and nobody to see us and sent away.

Finally the lady in established labour was taken to a room of her own, unable to walk and having had no triage or pain relief in her entire 8 hours in the waiting room.

A couple of hours later I was eventually seen. A grand total of 8 and a half hours after walking through the doors, having been experiencing regular Braxton hicks for 14 hours by this point with no medical assessment after the phone calls.

Thankfully once rested my contractions ceased and it turned out not to be early labour. Given that I was not assessed for so long, had I actually been in premature labour my baby would have been missing out on vital steroids to help lung development and many hours of attempts to stop contractions were missed. I also have a transverse lying baby so had my waters broken the consequences could have been more severe and this letter of a much more sinister nature.

I have a planned caesarean section booked at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital in November. This is booked due to there being a significant risk to my baby of natural Labour and birth. After this experience and witnessing the extremely distressing experience of another mother in labour, I do not feel either confident or comfortable with the care I may receive for my own birth, especially if I were to go into labour before my C-section.

For me I think the most distressing thought was that I could quite easily have attended a different maternity unit and received care more urgently if only the team had been honest about the situation. I feel that there was no attempt to put the safety of mothers and babies first.

I do not feel I can adequately put into words how distressing this experience was and how the memory of it will stay with me, and undoubtedly with the first time mum labouring in that tiny, hot, over crowded waiting room with us.

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Response from Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Dear Patient

We were very concerned to read your experiences when you came into the hospital and for any distress caused to you.

If you would like to contact us as pals@nnuh.nhs.uk. If you prefer you can call us on 01603 289045 or 289036 to give you an opportunity to talk through what happened. In the meantime, please be assured we have forwarded your comments to the Head of Midwifery so she is aware.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Sarah Eastwood

Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) Manager

Update posted by Unhappymummy8991 (the patient)

My complaint has already been sent to the above email, as well as the official complaints line and the MSLC. I should hear back from the official complaint in the next few days actually.

I should hope you are concerned. Today I finally had a call back about the swabs taken during that visit, which actually indicated a need for treatment. Thankfully my community midwife is significantly more on the ball and had dealt with it at my visit, otherwise I could have been left for nearly 4 weeks with no treatment.

I should hope procedures will be put in place to ensure mothers and babies are not so easily endangered in the future.