"My wife's experience of maternity services at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (Woolwich)"

About: Queen Elizabeth Hospital / Maternity

(as a relative),

My wife's waters broke on a Monday in Nov 2012. When she called the hospital, they advised that it was probably just incontinence.

She was originally booked in to be induced that Friday but after a visit to the hospital later that morning, she was rescheduled for the following morning and sent home.

When we arrived at the Fetal Assessment Unit (FAU) on the following morning, some obs were completed and mother and baby given the all clear – just needed to wait out in reception for a bed to become available. This was in late morning.

After two hours of waiting, we tried to find out what was going on as my wife was feeling unwell, and enlisted the help of a member of FAU staff, to determine how much longer we would need to wait; or if anything could be done. This member of staff attempted to get the ward manager to come and speak with us but after a couple of failed attempts, took my wife's notes to the ward manager instead. The ward manager advised her to send us home to return first thing the following morning.

During this time, my wife's condition had been deteriorating (her body was slowly going into shock) and coupled with the fact that her waters broke nearly 36 hours earlier, the last place she needed to be was at home. One of the FAU midwives, noticed my wife’s condition and made it a priority to find her a bed. This she did.

Once settled in a delivery suite (albeit a somewhat cold one) and hooked up to monitoring equipment again, it became apparent that not only had my wife suffered an infection, but that our unborn child was also in distress. An emergency c-section was decided on. I must highlight at this point that the care and skill displayed by the ever-growing team of medical staff in delivering our daughter was second to none. There were complications, but the staff’s skill overcame them. We were also very appreciative of the FAU member of staff's efforts in getting the ball rolling as it were; this person also came back to check on us at the end of their shift.

When the ward manager finally saw my wife the following morning, they flatly refused to take ownership of their error, blaming it instead on a ‘miscommunication’. The ward manager even went as far as summoning the member of staff from FAU before my wife’s bed to lay blame but at no point thought they needed to apologise for almost costing us the life of our daughter. Whilst I wasn’t present at that time, I bumped into the ward manager in the corridor outside the ward and upon realising who I was, quickly excused themself saying that they would come back and talk with me once they had finished whatever it was they needed to attend to. This person never came back to me.

In addition to this, upon taking our daughter to the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) for her evening antibiotics that evening, my daughter and I were left pacing the length of the corridor for over 45 minutes before being seen to. This was despite the fact that we were originally third in a queue to receive antibiotics which had to be administered on time and the doctors who eventually saw to us had seen us pacing the SCBU corridor the entire time – they just hadn’t realised we were there!

There were further incidents during the six days my wife endured at Queen Elizabeth, but these are the most significant. Perhaps a refresher in basic communication skills might go a long way to mitigating some of problems caused by what seems to us to be an obvious lack thereof.

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