A tour of private maternity

by Wendie McWatters (Patient Governor)—I recently spent a fascinating couple of hours with Cherry Brennan, Maternity Inpatients Matron & Supervisor of Midwives, and learned a great deal about the improvements that have taken place.

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Wendie McWatters, Patient Governor

E: wendiemcw@waitrose.com

I recently spent a fascinating couple of hours with Cherry Brennan, Maternity Inpatients Matron & Supervisor of Midwives, and learned a great deal about the improvements that have taken place.

It was a very special day. UNICEF was assessing the “Baby Friendly” initiative—best practice standards on infant feeding. Chelsea and Westminster have passed UNICEF Levels 1 and 2. The highest, Level 3, has not been achieved by any maternity ward in London. The atmosphere was electric. Mums and staff were being primed. Quote from Cherry: “...the assessors were very, very happy with us and could not see any reason that we would not be successful. They also gave us wonderful feedback.”

Our first stop was the Kensington Wing which is for private patients. This private section plans to increase its facilities to include scanning, outpatients and midwife-led services.

We passed an inflatable birthing pool for the use of private patients, but a plumbed-in pool is hoped for. The NHS has two birthing pools and an average of 55 NHS and private low-risk patients use the birthing unit per month.

We then visited the private neonatal unit which is very close to the NHS section. An interesting point was made. Very sick babies can be moved from private care into the NHS system with no extra charge. Most private maternity hospitals charge approximately £2,500 per day.

We now moved on to the NHS wards. Having passed through the labour ward, some midwife-led, we arrived at the highlight of my visit: “The Nest”, which was funded by a Directors’ Den project. The concept is simple and remarkable: a quiet, peaceful space where women in early labour can sit, lie or kneel on a bed, loungers, beanbags, cushions—whatever is most comfortable.

Special lighting and sensory objects give a feeling of calm. This alleviates the problem of being temporarily discharged, sometimes alone to an empty home, fearful and anxious. This particularly applies to older career women experiencing their first pregnancy. The comfort and support they receive in The Nest is immeasurable. A doula will tend to them giving massage and aromatherapy while they watch nature images on a large TV screen. They have companionship and advice from the staff.

The Nest had been open two weeks when I visited. There is funding for one year. I feel strongly that this project must continue. For me this was a unique experience and The Nest concept should be multiplied. Its value is immense.

Our next port-of-call was the Josephine Barnes Ward with 15 antenatal beds. I spoke to several mums who gave positive feedback. One patient who was waiting for an induction gave some very useful pointers regarding her antenatal experience. Certain improvements could be made which I am reporting to the next Quality Committee meeting.

I feel the whole maternity unit is really pulling together and I was most impressed with their attitude and enthusiasm. A memorable visit.

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