Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Are you listening NHS? No, I thought not.

I should probably preface this post with the statement that I am, as a proud and grateful Canadian, 200% in favour of totally free, totally accessible universal healthcare. And, with roots as deep in this country as in my country of birth, and having spent many formative and happy years of my adult life here, I can also say that I'm something of an anglophile. Actually, it's for that reason that I feel the need to post an angry missive. (I did warn about my rants on perceived social injustice).

I'm so angry for all of us - in this community in particular - that in a country like the UK, with £1000,000s worth of technology at our disposal and a huge knowledge based economy full of specialists and highly trained individuals, that poor attitudes continue and bad practices can so negatively effect the quality of care. I'm speaking particularly of obstetrical, gynecological and prenatal care here.

When I read reports like that in last weekend's Sunday Times - indicating that many NHS staff don't trust their own facilities - and which, more importantly, told the story of a woman who was informed by hospital staff of the high likelihood that her baby had died in utero, but then that she'd have to come back on the following Monday to confirm it because the ultrasound department only operates weekdays, (I'm not making this up)....Well, what can I say? It makes my heart break, my blood boil and yet it's all too familiar.

When I first realized something was up while carrying S, I called the Early Pregnancy Unit (which is meant to exist precisely for such moments) at my then local hospital, to be told that, at under 18 weeks, 'there would be little we could do, so try and enjoy your evening (!!!) and if the problem persists call us back tomorrow'. Again, not making this up; a prenatal care nurse actually said that to me. It was my first pregnancy, so I didn't quite realize at the time how appalling that truly was (though I've kicked myself so many times since for the fact that I didn't. Oh, the guilt). As true as it might be (though in some cases not), that a pregnancy at just under 18 weeks is far from save-able, do they not understand the notion of person-centred care? Do they not appreciate that we are not merely carriers of life they sometimes hardly seem bothered to acknowledge, but also whole people with concerns and fears and hopes of our own, and that we deserve care and empathy for all of that too?

The hospital in question in the article, in a neighbourhood of south London very near to where I once lived, offered a formal apology after the case was included and published in the wider research report.

And the NHS wonders why the UK has one of the highest stillbirth rates in all of Europe? Pretty scary. Of course the sad truth is that many losses (including, probably, my own), are not preventable, even with the interventions of modern medicine. Some causes (particularly the 'unexplained' variety) of infertility are not easily treatable. But that doesn't mean that when we place ourselves, our hopes and dreams and fears in the hands of those we trust to care for us, that they cannot display a minimum of compassion, even when their hands are tied so far as intervening goes. Sadness and disappointment in such cases are inevitable, but they can be minimized if treated with kindness. Successful medical treatments almost invariably contain an element of psychological and pastoral care as well as biomedical. I'm not just speaking from the experience of a patient; in my profession I know this also to be true.

It makes me so angry on behalf of all those lovely, loving, resilient and brave women and men I know here in the UK, struggling to conceive and then often struggling through scary, difficult pregnancies to bring home healthy babies they desperately want to care for. They deserve so much better. This country deserves so much better.


In tangentially related news, I received my appointment letter from the GYN clinic with a date of 14 March for my necessary colposcopy. Yeah, they were quite literal about the 'emergency' six week wait, almost to the day. I'll speak to my GP tomorrow about how that might affect our attempts for trying this coming cycle.

The letter itself arrived a mere three days after my initial exam. So I guess they're pretty efficient with correspondence, if not treatment.

Shaking my angry fist. Source.


  1. I am a total supporter of free health care but I have to agree 100% with what you say. I had a stomach opp on the NHS and the whole thing was wonderfully dealt with but here we are requiring assisted conception and we feel like we have no choice but to go private. It is either that or go mad. My experience of IF on the NHS has been nothing but waiting, battling, disappointment and unfairness.

  2. Dear Sadie & Luna,
    It is sad that it must feel like going into battle. My experience was also an eyeopener. I feel often that it is not that they dont care, moreso that the lack of appropriate training and plain naivety (hope I spelt that right!)was often easily spotted. To be frank about it, when you are in the throws of these experiences, every little word spoken counts. I shant go into it on here but I so hope you both get better treatment from now on- god knows you deserve it.X

  3. I can't believe that nurse actually said that to you. Ugh. How do you spend your life working with pregnant women and not have more compassion? And don't even get me started on the state of healthcare in the US. It's embarrassing.

  4. ugh. sorry that is is 6 weeks away, but very glad it is on the calender and they were efficient with mailing! I believe that you will get fine news, but I know it will still be hard to relax till then. blog your heart out - we will be here to read!

  5. I'm sorry anyone said that to you, let alone a prenatal nurse. I marvel sometimes at the insensitivity of people who, given their career choice, you would think would be exactly the opposite. We all deserve better, and it's sad that so many of us don't seem to get it.


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