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Worried about Royal Free - am I best to go private?

(25 Posts)
Beastycat Wed 13-Jun-12 11:00:08

Hi all. I would appreciate advice from anyone who has given birth at the Royal Free in Hampstead within the last year, as a google search brings up some horrible stories.....!
I am a first time mum and pretty nervous about the whole thing. My specific worries about giving birth at RH are as follows:
1- underresourced staff mean i may end up in the throes of labour in a corridor
2- May be screaming out for an epidural and they cannot get a doctor to give me one
3 after the birth will be dumped in a ward with six other new mums, no idea what im doing, husband sent home and left to fend for myself

I guess i could afford private if necessary for peace of mind, but equally have plenty of other things i would rather spend £10k on!! Would so appreciate honest advice from those who have been there recently. Perhaps there are other options such as private midwife/ private postnatal care i could consider?

Thanks so much for any advice.

ghislaine Wed 13-Jun-12 13:25:29

I think those worries are a risk at any London or other big city hospital, not peculiar to the Royal Free. Your no 3 I would say is a sure bet almost anywhere!

Hopefully someone who's had a baby at the RF recently will be along to give you the low down on the current state of affairs there. If you're in the catchment for the Royal Free, can you consider UCLH or the Whittington? I had my ante-natal care at UCLH, it was perfectly fine from a pastoral POV, and outstanding clinically. I also read very good things about the MLU at the Whittington on here.

You can get private rooms at some NHS hospitals, including UCLH. St Thomas's and Queen Charlotte's are the other ones that come to mind, but I don't think these can be pre-booked.

neshi Thu 14-Jun-12 23:22:54

I had my DS two years ago at Royal Free and had the exact same fears as you're having now. I considered other hospitals but in the end stayed with them.
You will hear good and bad stories from all hospitals!!
I can only tell you of my experience at the RF, which was great and that means I will be giving birth there again in July.
I had an elective c-section because DS was breech. everything went smoothly, very calm. There is a understaff issue, yes, at times, it took a while for someone to come and help but I was never completely left to feel alone or abandoned! It's not a hotel, food is crap, rooms can be noisy, you wont get much rest...but it's NHS...I guess if you want peace and quiet then you will have to spend the 10K! The way I see it regarding the lack of rest post birth's only 2/3 days (for a csection) so it wont kill me...
I was also very please with the way DS was taken care of after born...he had a very subtle problem in his legs that was detected day after he was born....It was not obvious at all so I was very lucky for the doctor to be as overcautious as he was.

I never heard of anyone being left labouring in a corridor and I've met at least 6 mums that gave birth at the RF.
About the epidural, can't really comment as I had one in the surgery room so quite a different situation.
About being left after birth...yes, sometimes you may feel you could use some extra help or support, but you also need to get on with things yourself and whenever I had doubts I called the midwifes and they came in and explained things to me, sooner or later...

From 8 ladies in my NCT group, half went to RF and the other half to UCH...there were good and bad stories from both...

Have you done the guided tour to see the ward? it certainly did help me to know the place made me calmer I guess.

It is a hard choice to make when your first time pregnant and all you hear are horror stories...I fully understand that. What I think you need to understand is, being in the NHS in London, you will hear these types of stories from all hospitals.
My advice is to try and visit all your options early on, see where you feel better and go with your instincts. The rest is luck of who you get at the time!

hellymelly Thu 14-Jun-12 23:24:40

Go to UCH instead.

comptoir Fri 15-Jun-12 15:35:14

If you can truly afford the 10k, spend it and go to the Lindo wing at St Mary's (I have never regretted money spent on my private births).
You cannot guarantee on the NHS that 1,2 and 3 will not happen. Equally you may be absolutely fine.
Also going fully private is not just about delivery but about superb antenatal care, consultants doing your scans, having 24 hr access to your own consultant in the event of complications.
With my previous pregnancy, it was v straightforward. I didn't need the consultant antenatally- all ran smoothly to plan - just nice to have him - and it was a v straightforward delivery (although the post-natal environment etc was lovely) .
With this pregnancy things have not been so easy, and I have been so grateful to have an expert on hand.
If I had a crystal ball and knew I would have a nice easy MW-led delivery in one of those new units, I'd go for it. But I don't, so I prefer having the OB (mine is also a fetal medicine specialist and does all my scans which I would really recommend looking into).

Bagofholly Sat 16-Jun-12 10:35:46

The "halfway house" is NHS delivery and transfer to private wing afterwards. St Thomas and st Mary's will let you do that, and I think Kensington and chelsea. That's a lot less than £10k.

EdithWeston Sat 16-Jun-12 10:48:41

Private wing of NHS would be safest.

Private hospitals do not necessarily have the A team available in the middle of the night, and do not have the full range of infant ICU services. Heaven forbid you need them, but if you do, a blue light transfer will only add to stress.

Bagofholly Sat 16-Jun-12 10:54:20

Edithweston, which hospitals are you talking about specifically? What's an A team?

MousyMouse Sat 16-Jun-12 11:00:53

I think the portland is such a hospital.

LaVolcan Sat 16-Jun-12 11:06:23

NHS hospitals do not have the 'A team' available in the middle of the night or at weekends either. The Portland does have intensive care facilities for babies but will cost you £££, for something the baby would get 'free' in the NHS.

EdithWeston Sat 16-Jun-12 11:07:08

By A team I mean the main consultants (both OB/GYN and anaesthetics). Those on call will of course be competent - I'm not going so far as to say there are major inadequacies. But you don't get the same level of consultant cover. It is for the person spending the money to weigh up how important that is as a factor, bearing in mind their own priorities for level of cover and attitude to risk.

It's easy to find examples on google of the high profile cases when things have gone wrong. It's not helpful to list those as individuals and certain areas of governance change. But the level of OOH cover and infant critical care need to be carefully checked if you are not in a wing on NHS premises. And of course you have to set against that the situation outside major cities, where infant critical care might mean a lengthy transfer for NHS patients too. But OP is in London, where the private wing in NHS is available, which is why my personal opinion is that that is by far and away the best option for her.

hellymelly Sat 16-Jun-12 13:26:10

Should add that actually being on the ward is rather nice. I was in a room alone after DD1 as I'd had some problems and was being closely watched, but with DD2 I was on the ward and it was much nicer, other women around, other babies, always someone in view when DH wasn't there etc. It is a happy time in my memories, seeing women go off for scheduled c-sections and come back with their new babies a few hours later, all that sort of thing was lovely. I had both daughters at UCH and if there are any issues during your pregnancy it is a really good place to be. There were some growth concerns (all fine ) with one of my dds and I saw a European expert in the field within 3 days and was scanned for over an hour, every care was taken to make sure they didn't miss anything. It is a typical busy London hospital but it is a good one. I did think of going private with dd2, solely so that DD1 would be able to be with me and so that DH could stay overnight, but in the end it seemed mad really, if anything had gone wrong they would have shipped me out, and I would rather be in a place where they can deal with any emergency on site, especially as I was trying for a v-bac and knew I might well need another c-section. Save your money and go to UCH, I wish it was still my local hospital.

ajmama Sat 16-Jun-12 20:58:54

Edith, please get your facts right. I have had 2 children at the Portland and there is Consultant cover in all fields 24/7. There are also full intensive care for mums and babies, you are not shipped out. OP you will not regret going private if thats what you want. You will have unlimited access to your Consultant and the best Fetal Medicine Consultants for your scans. I could not imagine anything worse than being on a grim postnatal ward without my dh.

EdithWeston Sat 16-Jun-12 21:54:12

You will note I did not name any specific hospitals.

It is interesting which ones people assume are meant.

Bagofholly Sun 17-Jun-12 10:50:53

No it isn't Edith. There's only ONE fully private maternity hospital in the UK, and that's why I asked you specifically. So if you weren't talking about the Portland, where were you referring to???

Beastycat Sun 17-Jun-12 16:39:10

thanks so much for your advice all of you. Much appreciated. I didn't know there was such an option of transferring after the birth to a private ward...will look into whether this is possible at UCL.

Bagofholly Sun 17-Jun-12 17:08:45

At ucl there are only amenity rooms, so a single room to yourself within NHS care. For a properly private service in London there's:
St Thomas
St Mary's
Queen Charlotte
Kensington and Chelsea.

By private service I mean that's billed and managed totally seperately to NHS care. There's different levels of service/package ranging from your entire pregnancy and post-natal care being managed to simple transfer to the private wing after an NHS delivery (more staff, nicer rooms, different catering etc). The details are on each website.

redsquirrel81 Tue 26-Jun-12 14:28:42

Hi All. I'm due in December and at the moment, I'm in the middle of switching from the Whittington to the Royal Free. Not only is it closer, but I've had a problem with every single appointment I've had at the Whittington - they've either not had me on the system, cancelled my appointment without telling me, etc, etc. I'm hoping it will be fine at the RF - I've actually heard that things have really improved. My neighbour just had her baby at the RF and said it was great. Fingers crossed!

SympatheticConsultant Tue 26-Jun-12 22:00:55

Hi Beastycat,
I'm the Obstetric Lead Consultant at the Royal Free. I think it is quite understandable when first time mothers become anxious about their labour and Especially when they start to read negative experiences online. This will happen for every maternity unit and you must remember the majority of mothers who have very positive experiences will not necessarily go to the trouble of posting them! It also does nt help when many of the posts are from regular posters on the forums who have actually not had any recent experiences of the maternity services in question whether that's at the RF or elsewhere.

There are however a few things I can quite confidently state regarding the Royal Free:
- We do have an excellent team of Consultants, Obstetric Anaesthetists and Midwives on the labour ward.
- You are extremely unlikely to be left labouring in the corridor
- If you are keen for an epidural you will get one unless you are likely to deliver imminently. There is 24hr Obstetric Anaesthetic LW cover with 2 Anesthetists covering during the day.

The biggest issues I would say facing any NHS maternity unit is the postnatal ward staffing. In all honesty at the RF this only really becomes an issue when the wards are full to capacity, which is not very often. The postnatal ward feedback from our mums has been excellent recently.
If you are keen to stay and deliver at the Royal Free I think you might find it really useful to contact and meet with Emma Hardwick ( she is our Consultant midwive who often helps provide support and continuity of care for our anxious low risk and higher risk mothers. You can contact her directly and mention that Mr Ali had suggested you contact her. Otherwise if there is anything else I can do to help or support you with your maternity care at the RFree then do let me know.

Sleepwalkingdiscodancer Sat 07-Jul-12 16:25:08

I gave birth at RF last October. Completely fine. Was DC2 so I knew what to expect etc but I had a better experience than st Thomas With dc1. Great midwife. Completely pro minimal intervention.

Midgetm Sat 07-Jul-12 22:57:56

Any of the things you describe could happen in any NHS hospital. They are understaffed and there is no way of knowing how busy they will be it how many emergencies the labour ward staff are dealing with. If you can afford to, and you are worried about it then why not Go private. I don't think the royal free is any worse than any of the main London hospitals. In many ways I have heard it is better than most.

PinheadAdya Wed 01-Aug-12 22:19:06

Hi all,

Am really confused between The Portland and Sir Stanley Clayton ward at QC. My insurance covers me for up to £8000 unless medical emergency. I was hoping to go for midwife led care at the Portland or QC - ones of the reasons being I really want as less intervention as possible, i.e. no CS if possible. Which would you recommend?

Thanks in advance!

Bibblebo Thu 28-Mar-13 00:39:43

I am thrilled to read Sympathetic Consultants post.
I had DS1 at UCLH in 2010. The clinical side of things was excellent. Of course, this is what really counts.
However, I arrived at around 5.30am with very frequent 1 minute apart contractions, nobody answered the door at labour ward for a while and when they did I was told to wait in a reception area where other women also waited in labour. There was no receptionist. I was left there in labor for about four hours without an indication of when I might get a room. My waters had broken before i left home and were muconium stained.I was distressed and wanted some reassurance as it was my first labor and the contactions continued to be very frequent. Nurses passed and laughed at me in my African surong,(I didn't have much time leaving the house as my waters had broken and I was told to come in quickly). I was on all fours vomiting. When I finally got a room. The midwife arrived and was young and very cold. I just really needed a kind word or a smile. I tried to go on without drugs but just felt exhausted, had gas and air and pethidine, finally an epi. Midwifed changed shift and another very cold young lady took over. I wanted to remain upwright and was pushing but they told me to get into stirrups. I did. I ended up with a forceps delivery which was a great and excellent team. I was exhausted and happy. I was then given Amoxicilin for manual removal when I was HiGHLY allergic to penicillin based drugs and had that written on a band on my arm. That ruined my first 3-4 months of parenting as I was in terrible shape.

Sorry.. I have not managed to write to the UCH yet but I should.
I plan to have my next at the Royal Free and hope that it will be a more pleasant experience. Having said all of this, I am of course clear in my mind that the Obs and delivery team were excellent at UCLH.

cbmb12 Sun 31-Aug-14 23:44:21

Just to say - I gave birth at the Royal Free on Friday and it incredible. Id recommend it to anyone

squizita Mon 01-Sep-14 10:40:05

St Marys permit husbands to stay overnight if you're worried (on nhs).

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