What Mumsnet users say about midwives and NHS staff

baby holding finger

With any campaign like #betterpostnatalcare, there’s a risk that talking about suboptimal NHS care can feel like a criticism of the efforts of staff. But Mumsnet users are clear that they think pretty highly of the work of midwives and maternity staff in the NHS.

The 1224 Mumsnetters who responded to our survey on postnatal care had all given birth in the UK in the last three years. Of those, 70% said they received brilliant care from some or all of the NHS professionals they were in contact with. Of those who had spent time in hospital after giving birth, 12% said their postnatal care was 'brilliant' and 33% said it was ‘good’, but 62% thought the ward 'a little' or 'very badly' understaffed.

When asked which NHS professional had helped them the most, 54% of respondents specified community or hospital midwives. When asked which kind of medical professional the NHS should employ more of, 54% again said community or hospital midwives. When asked what one thing they think should be done to improve postnatal care, 25% said ‘employ more staff’.

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

Cathy Warwick, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Midwives, has this to say about our campaign:

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

“For women the postnatal period can often be a very difficult time – and this is when the highest level of care and support is needed most for some women. It can also be an extremely exhausting and worrying time, particularly for first-time mothers.

“Surveys of women's views of maternity care including this latest one repeatedly inform us of their unhappiness with the current provision of postnatal care and in 2017 this is certainly not good enough.

“If we are to invest in better postnatal care for women we must invest in more midwives. England currently remains 3,500 midwives short and our maternity services will continue to struggle in supporting women if the shortage is not addressed. More midwives means women will get the care, time and support they truly deserve.

“The impact that good postnatal care could have on women's experiences and their long-term health in the context of the increasing complexity of the health of women who become pregnant should not be underestimated.”
mother holding newborn in hospital bed

Of course, there are some families who feel really let down, and even angry – and there are times when things go badly wrong. But our survey indicates that most women who had bad experiences don't blame NHS staff. Many Mumsnet users, even when relating really bad experiences, are at pains to say that they could see staff were visibly overstretched. It's one of the reasons new mothers are so reluctant to complain: 88% of those who said their experience on the ward was 'inadequate' or 'terrible' also say they didn't complain.

We're actively reaching out to healthcare professionals to help us share best practice and find good solutions, because we know their insight will be really crucial. If you’re an NHS worker and you’d like to contribute, please take a look here or email us on campaigns@mumsnet.com: we’d love to hear from you.

Praise from Mumsnet users for good care

“I was recently an inpatient, both pre- and postnatally, at Southmead Maternity in Bristol. I received amazing care. They all bent over backwards to help, including wheeling me down to NICU in the middle of the night. I highly recommend them to anyone having a baby in Bristol.”

“Amazing help from the team getting breastfeeding started. It was a midwife who is also an infant feeding advisor who got us to crack it. I mentally thank her often; my boy is 2 years 9 months and still feeding. Big shout out to Elaine Mead, CEO of Raigmore Hospital, Inverness for banning Bounty reps in 2013 too.”

“The whole team in South Worcestershire, out of Royal Worcester, are fabulous. They cared for me and my daughter with empathy and compassion in very difficult circumstances. But, they are badly underfunded and understaffed.”

“Fabulous breastfeeding help, one senior hospital midwife in particular in Basingstoke. They helped overcome a number of problems.”

“I used an NHS service called One2One Midwives which is only available in selected areas. It made a massive difference and I felt totally supported when I had my unexpected home birth.”

“The perinatal mental health nurse managed to get me a single room so my husband could stay and we got some peace. Without this I think my mental health would have been very badly affected and my answers [to the survey] very different. I was very lucky to have her advocate for me.”

“I had a very stressful pregnancy and a fairly traumatic birth. The postnatal care was very thorough and included debriefs on all the problems I experienced. Follow up care for both my daughter and me was excellent and really helped me recover mentally as well as physically. We had a very positive experience.”

“I just wanted to sing the praises of the staff in Wycombe Birth Centre. A couple of days post-birth I was in a real state with breastfeeding. I was knackered, sleep deprived, emotional, and I could not get my baby to feed. I phoned the birth centre sobbing and they invited me straight in. They were FANTASTIC. They took me into the midwives’ lounge rather than some clinical side room, calmed me down, and offered practical help to get baby latched and feeding well. I'm sure it's pretty run of the mill stuff to them and they deal with it daily, but for them to show such gentle patience and kindness to me when I was at my most vulnerable has stuck with me. My little boy is two now but that evening is fresh in my mind and I will always, always be grateful that the support was there when I really needed it.”

“St. Michael's Hospital in Bristol was outstanding. Every aspect of my care was so compassionate and attentive it still brings tears to my eyes thinking about it. I am beyond grateful.”

“I was at University College Hospital and it was amazing.”

“A huge well done to the RLI at Lancaster. I had my son 12 weeks ago, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong during labour. I ended up with a crash section, BUT at every stage the care was fantastic. My son was in the neonatal unit for a week and I was offered a private room so I wouldn't be upset by mums with their babies. Pain relief was brought regularly and topped up if needed. Always someone around to wheel me down to neonatal. If I didn't show up to collect food from the day room someone came to find me and see if I needed anything. Water jugs brought round every morning and topped up after lunch. Breastfeeding support was consistent and easily accessible. Everything clean. I just couldn't fault it.”