Back in 2007 and again in 2008 I experienced Lewisham hospital's maternity services first hand, with the births of my children. The first time around I will be honest and say I didn't have a great time, and I've blogged about it before, in the context of a survey that was done in 2007 into the quality of maternity services and in particular women's experiences and perceptions of how they were treated. I felt I was treated quite badly while I was there, with midwives that were rude and insensitive, and little to no help with breastfeeding.
Second time around I was hopeful that things might be better - was that the case? Well, my blog post from shortly after Claud was born suggests a bit of a mixed bag. Breastfeeding support was pretty variable, but I was more prepared and more determined myself on that front, and the midwives were much more supportive, if a little brusque.
But of course, all of that is a long time ago in the context of changing services, and I think it's fair to say that the hospital trust has responded to the results of the survey in 2007 by making major changes to maternity services. The "building your trust" section of their website sets out in detail the things they've done, which include:
1. Building a new mother and baby centred birth centre, which opened in 2010 for non-complex deliveries. (Anyone know how much this cost? All wasted if it is closed as per one of Kershaw's recommendations...)
2. Employing more midwives
3. Increasing postnatal support (which was my major issue with the care I received)
4. Setting up a range of specialist clinics.
(It has to be said that they could do with having a quick overhaul of their website though - there are quite a few broken links floating around!)
There is no consensus that maternity services in Lewisham could or should be closed. And any changes would certainly not be being made because it would be better for the women who give birth at Lewisham hospital! This comment was posted on an earlier post of mine on this subject and I think it is quite telling:
Dr. Jane Fryer spoke at the Scrutiny and Overview Committee meeting of Greenwich Council on Thursday 15 November at Woolwich Town Hall and described clinician support for the proposals as "enormous".
Appendix E of the full Draft Report has a different picture. At paragraph 77, the Report describes divided and undecided clinical opinion: "At a further meeting of the external clinical panel on 22 October 2012 a conclusion was not reached and the panel recommended that further work is undertaken to examine each option in more detail. The basis of this recommendation was that there are different views on the expected population growth and birth forecasts within south east London over the next 3-10 years and agreement should be reached so that correct capacity requirements can inform the final recommendations. Further work is required on the detail of the two proposals so that a more thorough clinical assessment can be made; and that broader engagement in exploring these options should be sought through the consultation process."
Don't be fooled - Lewisham hospital handles 4,400 births a year, projected to rise to 5,000 a year within three years. There isn't space to accommodate these anywhere else in SE London and indeed on occasions the maternity unit at Lewisham becomes full as it currently stands. This point was made by a midwife from the hospital at the public meeting on 8 November.
We need to keep campaigning to keep the maternity unit open, and for it to be accompanied by a full admitting A&E in the interest's of patient safety.
Make sure you respond to the consultation (help with that here) and attend the public meeting tomorrow if you can.