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Anyone interested in improving Maternity Services and access to better care?

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Wednesday 29 April 2009 5.25pm
Dear Everyone-

Anyone else feeling like campaigning for mums and babies this spring??

Apologies first - this is a long email … but this could make a significant difference to you if you:
• …have experiences from your pregnancy which you think would be useful to share with the hospital team so that lessons can be learned for the future
• …want to ensure other pregnant women have a positive experience of maternity services (antenatal, labour, postnatal and everything in between)
• …are pregnant or planning to be - and want to know what are the best services available and how to ensure maximum access to them
In other words- if you are a mum, or plan to be, this email matters, and applies to YOU!

St Thomas' Maternity Services Liaison Committee (MSLC) are trying to work with more local families and have an event coming up on May 11th. I have had some previous involvement with them and think it is something we mums/dads could (for relatively little effort) leverage to improve the provision of services to local mums and babies. As you may be aware, Hospitals / Health Trusts need to validate their plans for maternity care, to ensure they best reflect their patient's needs. Many of you will be well (too well?) acquainted with St Thomas'. They perform their validation through the MSLC and a few of us who have been aware of this through the NCT and other local campaign groups have attended these meetings in order to ensure challenges are raised, concerns are heard and that lessons are learnt from our experiences (not all bad). Any mum who has used their maternity services is welcome to join this forum, as well as anyone else who has a relevant connection and passion for the topic. However the reality is that very, very few women attend. The hospital does take it quite seriously though- it is attended by senior people in Management and Clinical Care - the Head of Midwifery, Director of Maternity Services, Obstetricians, Community workers and the rest. However, without anyone to provide serious pressure or feedback from patients there is little impetus for them to believe anything other than that they are providing a “the highest service levels in the capital”..!

I am sure - there will be many of you who reel upon hearing this. Since my daughter was born I have shared many many horrendous stories about antenatal care/ labour/ post natal wards/ hospital access/ community midwifery/ postnatal care and the rest. However- it is something which many of us also find difficult to talk about. It is therefore no surprise therefore that very few of parents attend these very dry committee meetings (called on random Mondays) at afternoon nap time (so very user friendly!) to pursue this officially.

A few of us have who have an interest in this matter therefore decided it would be worth getting together to ensure our voice is consistent and our attendance co-ordinated. We would like to start a rolling plan to ensure that we can follow up on previous actions taken by the Hospital team, and ensure that they work to resolve new concerns. The plan is that we build a strong team which makes sure we are all kept informed and we always have one representative at every meeting. On the basis of our very personal experiences, we have raised the following issues to date:
• Inconsistency of midwife care
• Lack of access to Community midwives
• Hospital Equipment
• Staffing and support on Post-Natal wards

This is something we are all keen to progress. However- we need more representation! The more mums, the better, and the more opinions the better.
If you are interested in joining the MSLC community, the questions to ask yourself are:
• Do you have an interest in the way the Maternity Services work and how best to improve them?
• Do you think that you would want to work constructively to discuss this with the hospital team?
• Your personal experience may have been positive, or it may have been negative (both are equally welcome) - but are you willing to step up above your personal experience to look at how they relate to the bigger issues?

In addition, as a person are you :
• Bold enough to challenge the plans when necessary -but not too proud to agree when necessary? It is intimidating being surrounded by so many people who are confident they are at the top of their career ladders, speaking in jargon, and sure that you simply can't understand the complexity of their task!
• Are you interested in representing the voices of a wider community of women. This may be through your personal networks (as an active playgroup or mums group rep, neighbour, NCT member, local issues campaigner) or your job (as a school nurse, playgroup worker, GP). You don't need to have given birth at the hospital (or had an NHS managed birth at home) in recent years, though you must have a passion for those who do
• Alternatively, and this could be fascinating and invaluable, you may be interested in giving up 1 hour a month (at a time convenient to yourself) to do what is known as “Walk the Patch”. This means you do a little tour of the Postnatal Ward, asking women about their experiences. This provides immediate feedback and a very useful way of representing a wider range of voices who would not easily be heard.
• Have you managed to process your own experience - or is it all still too raw? If you are on the cusp, it may be useful to see if you can speak to someone about it beforehand…this is something I might suggest to the MSLC team next time I meet them

The good news is- the practicalities can be adjusted to fit in with your needs. The MSLC currently meet 5 or 6 times a year, on Monday lunchtimes with food and crèche facilities- but it could be moved to evenings or other weekdays. Also, there is no compunction to attend every meeting. As a matter of fact, you could just do the “Walk the Patch” and collate the feedback but not do the MSLC. Or attend special hot topic meetings only - breastfeeding and C-Section are upcoming topics.
However, it would be useful if Users could have occasional pre-meets to ensure that they support each other and have a co-ordinated approach, otherwise it could be very easy to lose your way, and lose track of the issues being discussed and progress made.

If you would like to raise a particular point, feel free to get in touch with me through this website (and please copy me in directly on my personal email below).
If you would like to join the MSLC group as an active member attending committees when possible (currently held every 2 or 3 months on a Monday lunchtime at the hospital - free childcare and lunch provided) then it would be very much appreciated. Please note, there are only 4- 6 meetings a year, and the actions are for staff to complete - so this should not be too time intensive for stretched mums.
Still, we don't need to have an extra burden of work or responsibility so we as a subgroup must, at most, meet once a month, unless we can simplify it and do it all by email. If a few of us want to get involved, we could organise a kick off session to meet each other and co-ordinate our activities in the next week or so.

In addition, if you think you would like to exercise your right to attend a meeting without joining us to co-ordinate our approach, please read more about the MSLC and joining details at

In summary, please note on your diary:
Monday 11th May - next MSLC meeting to be attended by various agencies, and to discuss issue/ ways forward -this is when we need strongest representation. It is at the Parent Education Room, 8th Floor, North Wing, St Thomas Hospital, 12-2pm

To give you an indication of how much need there is for your voice, the last MSLC meeting I attended had 10-15 members of staff but only 3 parents. Not ideal ratios! We need to ensure we have more mums involved, consistently and regularly, and information is cascaded to the wider community more effectively than is happening at present. The good news is that I feel the Directorate is very keen to work with us, and I feel positive we can get to the nub of some of these questions, to make changes and decisions which will allow us to focus on the “big stuff” and make change happen

Apologies- this is a long email. For those of you who have persevered, it hopefully gives you a realistic idea of what to expect if you get involved. And it should show that this is a Work-In-Progress - as Users, we can change it, however we want, and make our voices heard. If we want to.

After all, there is surely a lot of little things that can be done to make a big difference to a lot of people

Any questions- do not hesitate to get in touch with me. I am trying to organise a post-baby-bedtime evening in the pub for anyone interested in becoming a User. That will most likely be the end of next week. In addition, there may be a Maternity Wards Tour at lunchtime on Thursday 7th May to “Walk the Patch”. Watch this space! And don't forget the next MSLC is on May 11th- Hope to see you at one of these events sometime soon!

Indrani Arni Ames / London
Thursday 30 April 2009 6.58am

forgive me for saying this as your intention is to be as informative as possible in your post especially for such a worthy and much needed cause, perhaps you could abbreviate it a bit more and just give a basic outline of what you hope to achieve with a contact number for requests for leaflets etc.?

As midwifery has changed so much over the years since I gave birth perhaps I should not be really posting this! but when I was pregnant I suffered brain fog for the first 5 months..

I had to have the words for happy birthday written down....:-)

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