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UCH, Whittington or Royal Free?

(132 Posts)
sazza1970 Sun 25-Jan-09 11:07:28

Just wondering if anyone could help me decide where to have my baby. The Whittington is our closest hospital, and I'm due to go there at present (I'm 18 weeks), but have heard mixed reports; I'm considering the Royal Free as it's relatively near and is a bigger teaching hospital; UCH would be my first choice if it wasn't so far away. I'm an older first time mum (38) and am feeling really anxious about this decision. I've done tours of the Royal free and Whittington, but UCH doesn't allow you to look round... does anyone have any advice?

elkiedee Sat 07-Feb-09 02:09:06

Just home from my rather surprising 2nd birth at the Whittington. Didn't have to be induced, labour seemed to be progressing well and then baby was distressed and ended up with a c-section. I hope to write up both my birth experience and something about the postnatal experience as someone who wants to be a successful breastfeeder this time round, but have a lot of good things to say this time round. However, I also think that while my birth circumstances certainly were not in my control, there are other things you can prepare for - mine was on how to persuade people to help and support my feeding decisions after the birth...

FeelingLucky Sat 07-Feb-09 08:17:20

Congratulations elkiedee! smile

I had my one and only DD at the Whittington in May 2007 too. Was induced and delivered with the help of a ventouse. Wasn't too impressed by the midwife who told me to push for about 45 minutes when I wasn't fully dilated. Neither was I impressed by the doctor pushing me to have a c-section. However, once the morning shift came on the staff were brilliant. Midwife made me breastfeed DD straight away and though the wards were a bit grotty looking everything was clean and I was well looked after despite them being understaffed.
Will definitely have next one at Whittingdon if I ever manage to get pregnant again grin

BTW - I've not heard one good experience about Royal Free from any real live Mums.

MrsMattie Sat 07-Feb-09 14:40:02

Maybe things have changed since I had my first child at the RF in 2005, but can I just say - my bad experience was very far from being down to 'being unlucky' or 'just one bad midwife'. The level of care on the antenatal ward (where I was induced) and then on the postnatal ward afterwards were both shocking. I saw a total of 10 different midwives in 8 days, plus various SHOs, registrars and a consultant. From start to finish, it was grim. I ended up with a c-section, and thank God the one positive part of my 8 days of hell was the actual operation (went smoothly) and the theatre staff (lovely). The rest of it was just a great big blur of horribleness.

UCH was like a holiday camp in comparison!

purplemyrtle Sat 07-Feb-09 17:30:20

I had my first in the RF in 2007, and would second what MrsMattie says, there were clearly institutional problems which led to a horrible experience. I too would say my surgery was one of the few things that went well! However I would say that since then from what I've heard they've made a lot of changes which should improve things, and a friend recently had a much better experience there. Have chosen to go elsewhere for no2 though as I feel no need to relive the memories!

elkiedee Sun 08-Feb-09 05:59:49

I think that if you've had a bad experience in one hospital, that's an excellent argument for going somewhere else. The important thing though is to prepare for what you'd ideally like - your birth may not go according to plan. After the last few days I've concluded it's pretty essential you don't just take what you're given in postnatal care.

If you want to breastfeed and you're in a hospital with a pro-bf policy, and you get pushed into formula top ups on the hospital ward (I at one point was eavesdropping on two wildly different pieces of advice for women/couples on their first day with new babies), you may need to sniff out breastfeeding counsellors, the more pro-bf midwives on the ward, and keep telling them you need bf support, for example.

dinkystinky Sun 08-Feb-09 09:52:30

I absolutely agree with you Elkiedee - the only way I managed to bf my DS (after birth at RF in 2006) was because I had got in touch with a BF peer supporter BEFORE the birth and she was a star and came up to the hospital for all 4 days I was in there to help me get to grips with BFing. The midwives were not particularly helpful on that. The surestart breastfeeding clinic in Kentish Town (at the Harmood Childrens Centre, run on Mondays 10.30-12.30 by Helen Wright, a WONDERFUL midwife) was where I met my BF peer supporter - any one planning to BF who lives in north london around that area, I'd definitely recommend going along while pregnant to get the support network in place before your baby arrives.

merryberry Sun 08-Feb-09 10:52:13


PrettyCandles Fri 13-Feb-09 17:37:05

Not necessarily, Elkiedee. I had a miserable experience with ds1's labour at UCH, but there was so muhc else that I felt was positive and excellent there, that I wanted to have my second child at UCH as well. I felt very much that the problems had been purely down to certain individuals. With dd's labour I insisted that these particular individuals not come anywhere near me - and had an excellent and very satisfactory experience. The 'good' labour totally wiped out the unpleasant memories and distress of the 'bad' labour.

elkiedee Wed 08-Apr-09 20:11:30

Hi Sazza if you're still around, did you decide where to have your baby, and how is your pregnancy going?

I've realised that several people have posted experiences of the Whittington from before October 2008 - when they refurbished maternity and opened a new postnatal ward. They're also opening a birth centre which might just be in time for you (think it was due to open this month).

Hopefully you'll avoid freak weather conditions which lead to all London buses being cancelled - the Whittington has very little parking even for staff and that was a real issue on the day I went into labour. However, parking is likely to be a real problem at Royal Free or UCH as well, given their location. My nearest hospital (North Middlesex in Edmonton) is easier to park at, but not to get to by public transport - as wobbegong mentions these things really matter in difficult circusmtances such as your baby and/or yourself being kept in or readmitted.

MoreLikeMiranda Mon 13-Apr-09 21:08:06

I have something positive to say about the RF!

I thought it was spotlessly clean and the midwives were fantastic (the one who stayed with me through the labour was awesome and I am so glad she was with me - Abbey).

Admittedly the anenatal care was hurried and I felt like I was in a system and it wasn't personal. I never saw the same person twice.

I had my heart set on the natural birth in the fantastic birthing centre but had to be induced.

I was very disappointed with the Dr's. I had a what felt like a ridiculous amount of Dr's putting their hands in me, it seemed like every 5min someone would come and give me a sweep and I didn't like their manner. There was one Dr inparticular who really hurt me physically and was very rude to me. I complained to the midwife and thankfully never saw that doc again.

The main thing that really upset me was not the emergency c-section. But that I only got to look at my baby briefly before they whisked him away with DP whislt they stitched me up. It was a whole hour before I saw him again and got to hold him. This wasn't due to being sewn up, but due to them not having the correct bed to take me into the next room where my baby was. sad

But I must emphasise that the midwives and support staff were excellent during my stay and the ward was immaculate.

BanKen Thu 14-May-09 22:48:43


I am currently carrying identical twins and was recommended to go to the Royal Free even though I live 10 mins away from Chase Farm. So far I have nothing good to say about the Royal Free, the staff, midwifes and Consultant (Economides) have been rude and unhelpful. I am 20 weeks and I have only had one appointment with my midwife and one with my consultant - even though identical twin pregnancies should be more closely monitored. On each visit I have come out of there in tears. If I knew where else was better (UCH really is too far) then I would go elsewhere.

Mamulik Thu 14-May-09 22:53:19

I had my DD2 at Whittington in September 2008 and I loved it! I had fantastic midwife - Agnes, who looked after me like my mum, she was so good!

SympatheticConsultant Sat 16-May-09 08:33:25

Hi "Banken",
I'm sorry you've had such poor hospital experiences at the RFree so far sad. I am one of the Consultant's working there.
Have you contacted Sister Anne Marie Whitewright? She is the midwivery sister that runs the Fetal Medicine Centre there and is very approachable.
I'm assuming your scan appt.s have been up on the FMU(5th flr) rather than in the main scan dept(Grnd flr)? Try and give her a call via switchboard (ask for Sister Anne Marie Whitewright on the Fetal Medicine Unit) or better still pop in and see her when you are next at the RFree. If she is not around then ask to speak to Kathy McGregor who works in the same office.
They should both be able to help and give you the support you need at the moment. Tell her whats been upsetting you I am sure they will helpsmile!

SamJamsmum Sat 16-May-09 08:37:06

The birth centre at the Royal Free is brilliant. Post-natal care is rough so you want to get out asap. I was there in 2004 so perhaps it has improved.
Whittington has lovely staff but post-natal care can also be a bit questionable.
I found Whittington antenatal care to be better. I would vote Whittington unless you are going to the birth centre.

SamJamsmum Sat 16-May-09 08:38:31

I should have read to the end of the thread and noted the date! Apologies.

WildeRose Sat 16-May-09 18:24:04

whittington are nice folks

NigellaTufnel Sat 16-May-09 22:37:10

Avoid the Royal Free!

1. The reception staff at the ante natal clinic would not talk. Simply gestured that where to sit with a pointed finger, or gestured they would not talk to me with the palm of their hand.

2. The midwife (name begins with an F) I had in labour was appalling - had me pushing at nine cms, told me "Mummies don't swear" when I said "Fuck, this hurts", and wouldn't answer me when I was pleading: "Is it worth it?" Was dismissive, and generally pretty horrible
Ended up with a emcs.

3. The post natal ward was filthy, I bled on the toilet floor, so I staggered out to tell someone. It took 12 hours to get it cleaned up. I didn't wash once as the shower was disgusting, covered in hair, blood and dirt.

4. My C Section wound was not tended properly. Only had one vaguely sympathetic midwife in the post natal ward.

5. And no private rooms - I had a woman chanting ALL night in the bed across from me.

On the plus side - the big ticket work was great. The anesthsitist was wonderful, as was the surgical team.
And I had no desire to linger, I was up and out as soon as they would let me.

Never again.

My overriding feeling was that I was treated with a huge lack of respect. I don't expect people to bow and scrape, but I do think that I merit eye contact, or to be treated with a little bit of kindness.

That said, I will be forever grateful that I now have my wonderful ds.

ingles2 Sat 16-May-09 22:45:49

I didn't have a good experience at UCH... (a long time ago now though in 1999)
I was induced, which was delayed for days, then had a slow and painful labour which in the end was very normal and boring. Because it was nothing special, I was completely ignored. I imagine UCH is very good for specialized/problematic births.
I had my 2nd at Homerton which was fantastic! Could that be an option?

SympatheticConsultant Sun 17-May-09 00:14:27

Hi NigellaTufnell,
I'm so sorry you seem to have had an awful experience at the RFree.
Can I ask how long ago it was? I joined the unit last year together with :
4 other new Consultants,
A new Head of Midwifery and
3 new Midwifery matrons
purely to improve the safety and experience of mother's coming through our unit. I'd be keen to know if this experience was still the prevalent one by most of our mothers?? We've been trying to rectify a recognised problem and its disheartening to hear if this is still happening!!

NigellaTufnel Sun 17-May-09 23:07:57

It was June 2007, so a while ago.

I really hope things have improved, not only for patients, but for staff too.

It must feel as if you are constantly being shouted at! I know it sounds awful, but I did find the more senior staff better than the more junior ones.

hellymelly Sun 17-May-09 23:11:50

UCH .I had both mine there (in the old building).Lovely consultants.Great birthing centre staff.All the horror stories I have heard are always the Royal Free and I had a bad experience with them when dd2 was injured.the communication there between teams is terrible.I had a very experienced Doula and she agreed about the Royal Free,avoid it if possible.

SympatheticConsultant Mon 18-May-09 13:52:44

Thanks Nigella,
I joined the unit at the RFree Sept 2008 and thankfully there have been major changes on the unit since the time you had your baby, both staffing and procedure wise. We now have more dedicated Consultant presence on the delivery suite then both of our other local Trusts and we have a Consultant dedicated to oversee the Postnatal ward where I know many of the problems have been in the past (but this is unfortunately also the case in other maternity units in general).
Unfortunately the RFree has had a lot of bashing on the MN forums sad and I fully accept it was not without due reason.
But things do change and so many of us here now are really trying to make it a safer and better environment for pregnant mothers,babies and father's to be!
Its ashame more of our current mums are not as active on the forums and not posting about the good experiences they are now having on the unit -hopefully with time you will start to see some positive feedback filtering through! smile

MrsMattie Mon 18-May-09 13:57:46

I appreciate what you've said SympatheticConsultant, but I'm afraid as recently as 3 months ago a friend of mine had a ghastly experience at the RF, echoing (to a scary extent) a lot of what happened to me back in 2005, when I had my first child there.

I know that most hospitals - especially the big London teaching hospitals - have mixed reviews, but the RF does seem to have a pretty dire reputation on the 'word-of-mouth' front in my area of north London - at NCT groups, toddler groups, in the school playground etc. That can't be for no good reason.

I wish I had made a formal complaint about my treatment at the Royal Free, but I was too unwell and depressed at the time to go through with it. sad

My experience in Nov 2008 at UCH was a world away from my experience at the RF. A lovely experience, where I felt totally cared for and looked after.

SympatheticConsultant Mon 18-May-09 14:11:25

Mrs Mattie,
I'm sorry to hear about your friend. Has she been back to the RFree for a follow-up appointment with her Consultant and for a chance to get debriefed as to what happened in her pregnancy/labour?

MrsMattie Mon 18-May-09 14:54:06

I think she spoke to a midwife on the phone, who asked her to put it in writing. Don't know if she has done.

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