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Staffing issues at Peterborough hospital leaves mums-to-be feeling 'neglected'

North West Anglia NHS Foundation Trust (NWAFT) has said its maternity unit is under ‘severe’ pressure.
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North West Anglia Foundation Trust that runs PCH, Hinchingbrooke and Rutland and Stamford hospitals has said, their maternity unit is under ‘severe’ pressure.

This is impacting mums-to-be in Peterborough in getting prompt appointments, which they say is making them feel 'neglected'.

Due to a shortage of midwifery staff across the East of England region, the Trust had to temporarily suspend its homebirth service in July. 

It’s believed patients are being sent to other hospitals outside Peterborough for delivery including Hinchingbrooke, Cambridge and even Derby. 

Some mums-to-be are also being told there isn't enough capacity at Peterborough City Hospital to cope with newborns who might need neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) treatments. 

Patients say this is making them ‘anxious’ and ‘frustrated’. 

One mum-to-be who wished to stay anonymous is ready to give birth within the next two weeks.

She said: "I feel neglected by the maternity and triage staff.

"I've called several times with reduced movements and they've said they're closed or are full and they'll call me back with another hospital to attend to. 

"I never had a call back or got told by anyone where else to go despite calling back several times to chase them up. So I've been left to worry and have anxiety all night because they wouldn't see me.

"When I have gone in for monitoring they've not really told me what's going on, they misdiagnosed me with a UTI and gave me antibiotics that caused me to have a really severe case of thrush, when I didn't need antibiotics at all and they just caused more stress on my body.

"I'm due in two weeks now and I'm worried they won't even have space for me to give birth. I've not got a birthing plan in place at all either because my midwife has been too busy to see me and all my tests I've had done she's been late doing them."

Despite the challenges facing the Trust, some patients said they were still 'well-looked after by the staff and are grateful'.

During a recent Healthwatch meeting held via Zoom on August 26, Laura Stent, chief nurse at NWAFT updated the meeting about the situation. 

She said: “The impact of the virus on the running of our hospital services remains significant. In July we experienced higher-than-usual absence levels as a result of staff being contacted by the NHS Test and Trace or via the Covid-19 app and required to isolate.  

“In addition, we had higher numbers of staff having to remain at home to care for school-age children who had been sent home to isolate due to a positive case in their class.  

“This came at a time when more colleagues are on leave for the summer having booked leave in advance.

“As a result of our staffing challenges, we had to reschedule some planned operations. The patients affected were contacted and offered our apologies and we will seek to carry out their procedures as soon as possible. We have kept cancellations to a minimum thanks to the additional efforts of our staff to fill rota gaps and support our patients. 

“Shortages of midwifery staff across the East of England region resulted in the temporary suspension of the Trust’s homebirth service on Friday July 23.

“This was a difficult decision, made only as the very last resort in response to unprecedented staffing shortages due to Covid-19-related absences. To keep all birthing women, and their babies, safe, we had no option but to ask them to come into hospital to have their baby.  

“Sadly, this issue impacted wider than our Trust, with other maternity units in our region reporting that they were in a similar position, which meant we were unable to call upon support from them to help alleviate our staffing shortages.” 

Responding to the concerns raised by patients, the hospital trust said space is now available in their NICU at Peterborough City Hospital, so parents should not have cause for concern and have assured pregnant women will always get the care they need.

Penny Snowden, director of midwifery, said: “We’d like to reassure all pregnant mothers that they will always get the care they need - we are here to help and if any pregnant mother has concerns we would welcome them contacting us so that we can provide support.

“We always endeavour to care for pregnant mothers in their hospital of choice, but if one of our maternity units is already full there may be rare occasions where the mother is clinically assessed and then, if safe to do, cared for in an alternative nearby hospital.

“Any pregnant mother concerned about reduced movement should immediately contact our maternity services helpline as usual, where a midwife will do a rapid phone assessment and ask them to come in for monitoring of their baby if needed.”