What is Wards Fit for Purpose - and what can you do?

Mother and newborn

Mumsnet is launching a crowdsourcing initiative to find creative, practical and (if possible) low-cost ways to really improve postnatal wards for all women and babies – and we want your help

Please let us have your ideas – however big or small – by tweeting us @MumsnetTowers with the hashtag #BetterPostnatalCare, by posting on our Facebook page, or by emailing us at campaigns@mumsnet.com.

What can the NHS and healthcare professionals do to make hospital wards for new mothers really fit for purpose? New mothers and babies need peace and quiet, privacy and dignity, and good medical care. They need nutritious food and drinks, easy access to washing and self-care facilities, and pain relief. Many will need help with bathing, dressing, and eating, and with support for breast or bottle feeding. Most also want to be able to introduce their new baby to those they love, and to have support from their spouse or partner.

We all know the NHS doesn’t have lots of cash to throw around, but nonetheless it’s clear that some hospitals manage to provide safe, kind care that really allows new mothers and babies to rest and recuperate, and get any medical attention they need before going home to start life with their new or expanded family. What are they doing right that other hospitals can learn from?

For examples of how some women feel let down by their experiences in hospital after giving birth – and hints about the kinds of things we’re looking for solutions to – please check out our survey results page. These are some of the issues our survey threw up:

  • How can we make sure all women have easy access to drinking water, pain relief and food – even if they’re immobile in bed with a caesarian scar or a birth injury, and even if they arrive on the ward starving at 4.30am?
  • How can women be sure of getting staff attention when they need it?
  • How can we tackle issues like light pollution and noise pollution from patients’ and visitors’ devices and screens?
  • What can we do to allow supportive non-birth partners to help new mothers and babies while they are in hospital – without compromising women’s privacy and dignity, breaking the NHS’s commitment to single sex wards, and while safeguarding women in abusive relationships?
  • What can we do about issues like curtains around bays, where heathcare professionals might want them open for safety reasons, but women would like them closed for privacy?
  • How can we help new mothers to get more sleep after the arduous experience of labour and birth?
  • How can women and staff deal with visitors who are behaving inappropriately? Whose responsibility should it be to enforce standards of good behaviour on wards? And what should be done if people don’t behave considerately?
  • What’s the best way to tackle the issue of temperature on inpatient wards where new babies are sleeping? Is there a way of agreeing on an ideal temperature that is safe for babies and comfortable for new mothers who are trying to sleep?
  • What can be done to ensure that women whose babies are in intensive care still get their own meals and medicines when they’re supposed to, even if they’re looking after their baby on a different ward?

This list isn’t exhaustive – we want to hear any and all thoughts, however big or small. Have you got any ‘lightbulb’ ideas that you think would make a difference on postnatal wards?

  • If you’ve stayed in hospital after giving birth, what ninja things did staff do to make the experience restful and appropriate for you?
  • If you’re a healthcare professional, can you share any examples of really good ideas and best practice?
  • If you’re a birth partner or non-birth partner who would love to be able to stay overnight on the ward with your new family, how do you think women’s concerns about privacy and safeguarding can be effectively addressed?

Please tell us about them – by tweeting us @MumsnetTowers with the hashtag #BetterPostnatalCare, by posting on our Facebook page, or by emailing us at campaigns@mumsnet.com.