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New Mums On Postnatal Wards Sometimes Go Without Food And Pain Relief, According To Mumsnet

'Food was left out of reach and water was never topped up.'

04/05/2017 10:02 | Updated 04 May 2017

New mums say they are going without food, water, pain relief and washing facilities while on postnatal wards, according to a survey by Mumsnet.

One in five mothers said they were frightened for their own or their baby’s wellbeing, according to the small scale survey of 1,200 women who stayed in hospital after giving birth in the UK in the last three years.

Of the women surveyed 61% said they had been unable to access food when they needed it; 45% had been unable to access pain relief; 22% had been unable to access water; and 19% reported being unable to access washing facilities.

One survey respondent described the postnatal ward as being like “a disaster zone” and another said: “Food was left out of reach and water was never topped up.” 

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Almost one in five (19%) of the women surveyed said their hospital stay negatively affected their mental health and 5% said that the postnatal environment in hospital was a contributed to them developing postnatal depression.

“When my health reached crisis point the staff were all excellent and saved my life, but I got to the point where I was in danger because the staff were overstretched,” said one survey respondent.

“I was ignored and isolated and left to deteriorate. I have PTSD as a result.” 

Despite this 77% of women said they’d experienced ‘satisfactory’ or better in hospital postnatal care. They rated their overall experience on postnatal ward: 12% brilliant, 33% good, 32% satisfactory, 15% inadequate, 8% terrible.

Mumsnet has today (4 May) launched a new campaign - ‘Better Postnatal Care: Aftercare, not Afterthought’ calling on politicians, the Department of Health and healthcare providers to commit to ensuring all new mothers receive the basics of good care when they’re in hospital.

They have also started a crowdsourcing initiative to find practical ways to improve the environment on postnatal wards, so that new mothers get the rest and recuperation that they need.

Across Mumsnet and its social media channels, people will be asked what the NHS - and patients’ visitors and families - can do to make ‘Wards Fit for Purpose’.

Responding to the survey an NHS England spokesperson said: “Every year in England there are around 700,000 births and a national NHS survey of 20,000 tells us that 95% of women felt they were treated with kindness and understanding and 88% felt if they needed attention, they received it.

“This small Mumsnet survey of 1,200 women confirms majority of women report they receive good care.

“We know that caring for a new mum and her baby after birth is important, which is why we continue to work to make maternity care more personalised before, during and after birth, to give mothers and babies the very best start in family life.” 

However, Cathy Warwick, chief executive at the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), said there is room for improvement in postnatal care.

“There is no doubt that postnatal services are the Cinderella of maternity services not only in England, but right across the UK,” she said.

“The RCM believes this area of maternity care is one of the most important to invest in and much more investment is needed to help us achieve the best outcomes for both mother and baby.” 

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at the NCT, said: “It’s completely unacceptable that new mums are not being properly looked after on postnatal wards.

“Unfortunately it isn’t a shock - these findings echo NCT research published earlier this year where one in five mothers told us they weren’t able to see a midwife as often as they needed after birth.

“We know that many women get good care in labour, then are left to fend for themselves – and their babies - afterwards and this situation has to change.”

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