Yesterday I had my 31 week midwife appointment at the Royal London hospital in Whitechapel. Our appointment was at 11.30am and as suggested we turned up 15 minutes early, parking our car for 90 minutes assuming that would give us sufficient time to return… how wrong we were!
I usually work from Monday to Wednesday, so decided to work from home yesterday. I logged on in the morning and then thought I’d do a little more after I got home from the hospital, probably around 2pm. My husband is home with A on the days I work so on appointment days he usually drives us all to the hospital. We normally have slightly earlier appointments and are typically done by 1pm, so we have lunch together before heading home and I lock myself away and work for a couple of hours. Obviously we always take a couple of snacks and drinks for A, top tip: never leave the house with a toddler and no food!! Yesterday I packed some grapes, a peach and a banana (which the hubby ate as he was having leg cramps!). A also usually goes in for a nap around 11am so we thought she might fall asleep in the car and we’d transfer her to her pushchair where she can happily kip for a couple of hours. I guess the first sign that it was going to be a tough day was the fact she didn’t nap and was super energetic in the car journey. When we arrived at the hospital she didn’t want to stay in her pushchair and instead opted to walk.
For a midwife appointment the first thing your usually asked to do is give a urine sample, unlike for a scan when it’s better to have a full bladder. The waiting space was busy, it usually is during the summer as mums bring their children, it didn’t strike me as anything unusual and the person at the reception didn’t indicate that it was going to be a longer wait. When I dropped my sample off I noticed mine was the only one on the trolley so again I was hopeful we’d be done quite quickly. Also the maternity department deals with a number of appointments: scans, consultants, nurse/dr as well as midwife check ups, so there’s no expectation of being seen in the order you arrive. I’ve been doing these trips now for 2 years on and off, and I’m quite familiar with the process and waiting around, in fact I expect it, but yesterday was especially bad.
Around 1pm a couple of the other women who had been there before we came started to ask each other about how long they’d been waiting. One lady next to me said she’d been there since 10.30am. We’d all noticed that the midwives had stopped coming out, as no ones name had been called in a while. A large group of women had been taken in together for a diabetes training and only about 5 of us remained in the waiting area and a few women who had just walked in. During our wait my husband had tried to take A for a stroll twice to lull her to sleep and he’d bought her lunch which she refused to eat! I was lucky to have him with me, other mums had to rely on the vending machines which are usually full of snacks not lunch substitutes. Around 1.30pm I asked the gentleman at the desk if he knew how much longer we’d be waiting, he didn’t, but advised me to go around the corner and speak to someone in another room. A midwife there told me I was next after another lady. I wasn’t actually seen for an hour after this. The women who had come in for their afternoon appointments were called in one by one and we just sat there waiting. As I’ve mentioned, I know there are a number of different appointments happening at the same time, and of course it’s not their fault that one team is delayed or running slower than usual but we were given no information about the delay, we were just expected to sit on those horribly uncomfortable chairs in our late stages of pregnancy (all the women I spoke to were over 30 weeks) and wait to be called. This was exacerbated by the fact that there was clearly a period of over an hour when no one was called and we can only assume they’d gone for lunch. Had they informed us that this was the case we could have also gone to get something to eat, or at the very least gone for a walk to stretch our legs!
When we were called in, around 2.30pm, my husband was in a bit of a stinker, he’d already paid £15 for parking by then and at 3pm would have to go and move the car as the max stay was 4 hours. The midwife did apologise for the wait but didn’t give us a reason. We went in and she took my blood pressure, listener to the babies heartbeat and with a measuring tape took some measurements. When she plotted this on the graph it showed the babies growth had dipped slightly and offered us a scan just to ensure everything was ok. We’d had the same thing with A so neither of us was that worried but we agreed to the scan (which incidentally is tomorrow!) and in about 10 minutes we were out. I had to go and book my 34 week appointment and while at the desk heard an altercation between another lady and a staff member. The lady was 7 minutes late and therefore her appointment had been cancelled or reschedule but she’s been waiting for about 2 hours since arriving and the nurse was informing her that it was her fault for being late as lateness causes delays! I rolled my eyes and walked away!
We didn’t get home until just before 4pm when we had an incredibly late lunch. A had a short nap in the car but then went in for another one around 6pm to 8pm which then totally messed up her nighttime routine! I suffer from lower back pain anyway so was in discomfort all day yesterday and have spent most of today horizontal and had to call in and cancel work. Of course there’s no way to blame the hospital entirely for these things but in my opinion they are somewhat at fault. Just a very basic level of communication on their part, which would cost the NHS nothing, could have saved so much trouble. The blatant disregard for us women and our lives is what I find the most offensive. We were not informed once as to what the delay was. We have lives/ children/ families / work all waiting outside the hospital and not once did any member of the team come out and explain what the delay was or how much longer we’d be expected to wait. Shouldn’t we have the rights as patients to be kept informed so we can then make decisions about rescheduling?
I’m a very strong believer and supporter of the NHS and would argue that it’s what makes Britain Great, free at the point of access healthcare for all her citizens. I’ve demonstrated to save the NHS from privatisation and will continue to do so, because I believe in it and love it. But yesterday our relationship was strained, I hope tomorrow isn’t as bad, for one thing my back is literally killing me and for another I’ve got a wager with my hubby that it will be a less than 30 minute wait, the winner gets a tenner, so please don’t let me down tomorrow Royal London Hospital!