An open letter in praise of the Conquest Hospital maternity unit.
To all the midwifes, doctors and other staff working on the maternity wards at the Conquest hospital, Hastings,
We are lucky enough to have had relatively few occasions to require the services of the NHS in our lifetimes. But it is of course reassuring to know that it’s there – a world class health service free at the point of contact for everyone, regardless of their situation or what they can afford. That’s a great thing.
As Nye Bevan said;
“The collective principle asserts that… no society can legitimately call itself civilised if a sick person is denied medical aid because of lack of means.”
I’m not going to lament too much about the slow dismantling of the National Health Service – it’s all over the news these last few months, from junior doctor’s contracts and planned cuts to bursaries for nurses, to the current wave of support for the #LoveYourNHS and NHS for Xmas No1 campaigns. Suffice to say, it feels like the the current version of the NHS may not be long for this world, with chronic underfunding and constant demonising by the government and media.
To make it worse, the most recent inspection by the Care Quality Commission rated the Conquest Hospital as inadequate overall and highlighted problems in the Maternity and gynaecology services specifically.
With all of this in mind, it feels all the more important that we express our thanks for and highlight the outstanding quality of care we received for the five days we were in hospital following the birth of Henrietta and Wilfred.
After going into labour at home at about 3 in the morning on Tuesday 10th November, we arrived at the labour ward at about 5.30am. During the labour, which incidentally progressed quite rapidly and without any pain relief, we were cared for by five midwifes (a shift change occurring at about 7), all of whom were brilliant. The two midwives who took us into the latter stages of labour and through the birth were outstanding. We could not have hoped for more reassuring, confident or skilled support. On moving into theatre for the delivery (a fairly standard procedure for twins), the medical team expanded – two obstetricians, two paediatricians, anaesthetists and theatre staff. Again, kindness, competence and confidence abounded, in particular with our fantastic midwives steering the proceedings.
Not long after 2pm, Hatty was delivered with the assistance of a ventouse, and Wilf followed the same way 16 minutes later with Hatty still on Anita’s chest.
In the post natal ward we were cared for by a raft of midwives and other support staff. Without exception they worked diligently, listened to our worries and supported us. They work twelve hour shifts and it’s tough – they’re on their feet pretty much the whole time and they are probably stretched too thinly. But they deal with the shortcomings of management and funding with stoicism and a smile.
After two nights, both twins were not doing so well and had lost too much weight and were getting dehydrated. Hatty was severe enough to be admitted to the special baby care unit. Again, the staff who supported us, from the newly qualified midwife on her first full day who fought to move us into a private room so that I could stay through the night, to the two midwifes who worked as a team, one from SCBU and one from the post natal ward, through the night, helping us with feeding and top ups and finding me a comfortable chair so I could grab some sleep, and the junior doctor who gave so much time to to us, to reassure us and explain what was happening. All were exceptional, kind, inspiring.
After five days the twins were well enough to leave and we bundled them into their car seats and home. They’ve continued to do well, growing fast and are healthy and happy babies.
Having had time to reflect on our birth experience and the following days in hospital we feel fortunate to have such a positive memory to look back on. It’s clear that parts of the NHS are under immense strain and it’s clear that the Conquest Maternity Unit is suffering too, but if the NHS is worth fighting for, and what right thinking, civilised person would say that it isn’t, then the front line of that fight is happening in places like the Frank Shaw ward and being fought by hard working midwives, cleaners and doctors.
So, to all those wonderful staff, thank you. Please keep fighting.
Anita, Stuart, Henrietta & Wilfred