Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lewisham hospital maternity services

As those of you who know me well know, I didn't think an awful lot of the postnatal care I got at Lewisham hospital. I have no major issues with my antenatal care, or with care during labour/delivery, but I felt that the postnatal care really was bad. I'm not the only one to have experienced this, quite a few of the local mums I have chatted to feel the same.

However, being a data analyst-type person in my day job, I know that the plural of anecdote is not evidence, so it was very interesting to see some hard evidence that points to my experience being rather more typical. Today the Healthcare Commission published the first results from the survey of maternity services carried out earlier this year. Overall results for England were positive but they noted significant variations within this by NHS Trust.

I had a look at Lewisham's results, obviously having an interest in this and having taken part in the survey myself. I haven't, I admit, done a comprehensive examination of the results for Lewisham - I rather hope that someone from within the trust will be doing that. I did look at the section on postnatal care in the hospital though, as that's where I'm really interested.

Someone in Lewisham NHS Trust needs to sit up and take notice of these results. Looking at mums' overall experience of care after birth, 23 per cent of respondents for Lewisham rated the care as poor, compared to 8 per cent nationally and a percentage as low as 2 per cent in the best performing trusts. Only Barts and the London did worse in the whole of England. Looking at this in a bit more detail: only 30 per cent of respondents in Lewisham said they were always treated with respect and dignity after the birth of their baby and 25 per cent said they were not treated with respect and dignity. This compares with 66 and 7 per cent respectively for the whole of England. Again only Barts and the London fare worse. Fourteen per cent of respondents said they were not spoken to in a way they could understand, compared with 3 per cent for England as a whole. This is the worst figure in the country. And, interestingly, 29 per cent of respondents felt they were kept in the hospital too long. I'm not surprised!

Obviously the information I've pulled out above is not comprehensive and there's a lot more to be read. I hope that Lewisham fares better on other aspects of maternity care, because it seems, in respect of postnatal care in the hospital, they've got a long way to go.


bob said...

Clare, my partner and I had a bad experience with Lewisham when our first child was born, and then a really, really terrible experience with them when we experienced a miscarriage, so that even when we are walking distance from Lewisham we had our second baby at Kings, which was not perfect but a million miles better.

We saw lots of members of staff at Lewisham over our visits, and some of them (three stand out for me) were absolutely wonderful. Far more treated us with absolutely no respect. The norm was probably a weary, bored lack of interest in us.

Our experiences ranged from a cleaner pulling out the plug on a monitoring machine, which we told two other people about and waited half an hour before it was plugged back in and reset, to waiting well over half an hour to see a triage nurse in casualty as my partner bled profusely onto their plastic chairs, to them forgetting to use anti-biotics during an operation that required one. Some of their policies around miscarriage are completely off nationally recognised correct practise. The gyny ward was woefully undertaffed, and seeing an actual doctor was really hard to do (seeing a doctor more senior than a SHO was actually impossible).

Despite hearing other parents' similar experiences, I had always imagined that this anecdotal accumulation did not add up to evidence, so I am glad that you drew my attention to the results!

(Didn't mean to reveal all this to a complete stranger, but I guess I will.)

Clare Griffiths said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I think sometimes it's easier to write things for complete strangers/the internet than for your friends and family.


Anonymous said...

You may find an article in the Dec 12 issue of The Mercury (Page 4)od interest.

Professor Sir George Alberti (a government adviser) says the Accident & Emergency department and acute treatment units at Lewisham hospital should be axed within 5 years.

That the specialist children's services and doctor-led childbirth unit should be moved and concentrated at Queen Elizabeth, Woolwich and the Princess Royal University Hospital, Bromley "sooner rather than later."

Sir George, who chairs the National Clinical Advisory Team, said changes were needed as there were not enough experienced consultants to offer affordable, safe and high quality specialist services around the clock at all A&E and acute units in the region.

Recently the Primary Care Trusts of Lewisham, Greenwich, Bexley & Bromley were combined together.

Clare Griffiths said...

Thanks anon. That's interesting. I don't approve of the current policy of centralising services on fewer sites. In the end it means more hassle for patients (for example visiting James in SCBU would have been much more stressful had the service been in Woolwich or Bromley) and allows the hospitals to conveniently sidestep the issue. We are not talking something that would require a huge investment of money to improve the maternity services at Lewisham - we are talking about such basics as the attitude of the staff to women who are potentially at a very vulnerable time in their lives. Changing the way the staff treat their patients shouldn't cost a penny.