"antenatal services"

About: Princess Alexandra Hospital (Harlow)

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I had a complicated twin pregnancy that meant that I needed fortnightly scans to monitor the growth of the twins and this pregnancy was made so much more stressful by poor antenatal management in this hospital. This was due to:

1) A computer system that said that I was only having one baby which meant that the consultant was not prepared for twins at our first appointment, and had no time to tell us anything beyond that it was rare, complicated and risky. This also meant that the Down's risk assessment was wrong the first time.

2) Two different scanning systems without appropriate protocols in place to ensure the data are combined. Even having the the same sonographer does not ensure the same system is used for each scan. This resulted in incomplete data being used by the sonographers to assess growth, meaning that on two occasions we were erroneously told that our babies had TTTS and were likely to die (once by a consultant and once in a scan report without any further explanation). We ended up plotting the growth ourselves each time and predicting what the main measurements should be before each scan so that we could assess whether they were growing as expected. Not something patients should have to do.

3) Not being listened to – for example, during the incident where TTTS was incorrectly diagnosed we tried to tell them that they were using an incomplete data set, but to no avail. On another occasion we saw a registrar instead of the consultant and I was told to have steroid injections there and then, despite it being 4 weeks before the planned c-section. This was contrary to the consultants plan and current guidelines – yet the registrar did not listen to our opinions and wrote that we were being uncooperative in the notes (on further advice from a twin specialist we held off to the correct time and the babies were fine).

4) A poor booking system for scans. If women need regular scans all appointments should be booked in advance. We often could not get appointments and once turned up for a scan only to find that the sonographer that we were booked to see was not qualified to do the level of scan required – not great when one has to take the time off work! Furthermore, on some occasions the appointment with the consultant was on a different day from the scan – this is really not appropriate given the potential complications that might need to be discussed.

However, the majority of staff were very friendly and professional. With a less complicated pregnancy the services provided are probably adequate. Our twins had to spend some time in NICU where the care they received was excellent (it was mostly having seen NICU that persuaded to stick with PAH despite the stress caused by the antenatal unit).

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Responses

Response from Princess Alexandra Hospital

The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust strives to improve services continuously and we are preparing to do some specific work to improve services for expectant mothers, babies and partners.

I have spoken to the teams who run these services and they were very sorry to hear about your experience and would really do anything to make it better. I know the concern you raise is largely not about staff, but they do feel they could have done more to support and assure you.

We are aware of the need to improve the systems we have in place around scans, particularly for twin births and of booking systems but also of the need to listen better to the concerns raised by patients.

We would, ideally, like you to make contact to help us improve this further and perhaps tell your story in more depth to a wider audience to help us learn and improve services for expectant mothers in the future.

Thank you for your comment on the friendliness and professionalism of the majority of staff on the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and elsewhere, it is much appreciated. If you do feel able to make contact to help us learn from your experience, please call 01279 82 70 84 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday, and we will be ready to assist.

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