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Appointment chaos – is it just me?

Fran is now 28 weeks pregnant and whilst everyone in her pregnancy care team seem very friendly – she has experienced chaos with her midwifery appointments. Is this just a problem in the South West – or have you experienced similar? She explains:
NHS doctor stressed
Stressed doctor

I must admit I didn’t go into this pregnancy with high hopes for my midwifery care and at 28 weeks today they are yet to prove me wrong.

I should preempt this by saying every midwife I have seen so far has been lovely however the system is appalling. Getting an appointment to see anyone or getting hold of anyone by telephone is difficult. I am also yet to see the same midwife at any of my appointments.

I am based in the South West of the UK and understand there are different systems for different areas. Here, once you find out you’re pregnant you complete a form at my doctors’ surgery and they then pass these details to the midwives who get in touch to arrange the first booking in appointment around the 8/9 week mark. My midwife duly contacted me but the next available clinic I could be seen at was when I was 11 weeks.

I would also need to travel to the hospital to see her which is a 30 minute drive away rather than the local doctors’ surgery opposite my house! After having a previous miscarriage and also a small bleed in this pregnancy at 5 weeks I was really hoping to have been seen sooner to help my anxiety. I was also in a panic that being seen so close to 12 weeks would result in my first scan being delayed but luckily it wasn’t. The issue I did have with being seen so late is that because I have a higher BMI, I should have been taking additional folic acid and vitamin D and these are only needed until 12 weeks by which time I almost was!

avatar of pregnant mum
Fran - expecting her baby, with help from a sperm donor.

The next step was after my 12-week scan once I had been given my official due date, I needed to book an appointment with the midwife for 16 weeks. When I called to book this, they didn’t have a clinic that week (they run fortnightly) so I needed to wait until I was 17 weeks. This appointment all was fine but it wasn’t my named midwife as she was on holiday but a very nice lady covering. She then booked in my next appointment at 24 weeks.

When I turned up for my 24-week appointment I was first of all told the clinic had moved to my own GP surgery rather than the central surgery where all of the midwives were based. This actually made more sense and my own GP surgery is only next door so was no bother. Only when I turned up, they didn’t have a clinic running that week and all of the appointments the following week were now full. The midwives are independent from the doctors so the receptionists there have no clue what’s going on with the clinics either; and all I can do is ring them and try and to be seen sometime.

I have the telephone number for three different midwives so I try all of them and leave a message with the hope that someone will ring me back. One of them eventually calls back and explains that they’ve had a big change around in staff and clinics and apologises for the confusion. She explained that when the clinics were swapped obviously my appointment got missed somehow. However, so that I get seen this week I could attend this midwife’s clinic back at the central surgery rather than waiting and going to my own one (You still with me here?!)

I turn up at this appointment and there were three midwives in the room! We all made a joke about them being like buses. There was the lady I spoke to on the phone who I believe oversees all of the midwives in this area, there was a new midwife who would be running the clinics from this surgery from now on and there was a student. They were all very apologetic for the mix up and explained again about the shift around of staff and clinics but promised that things should settle down now and I have the name and details of who will be my named midwife moving forwards. However, this midwife’s clinic was full already for my next appointment needed at 28 weeks for my glucose tolerance test so they agreed I could be seen at this central clinic for this appointment which is this week but then after that I will go back to my own surgery with my own named midwife.

Just when you think things are getting sorted it gets worse, I had a really bad back one day so phoned my named midwife to ask the question do I come and see her or go to my GP regarding this, only when I get through to her she claims she isn’t my midwife and only covers clinics in a different town to me. So, I’m back to square one really. If you could all please wish me luck for my appointment this week as who knows if there even will be an appointment when I turn up or who it will be with?

It’s so disappointing that there is no continuity of care and as patients we are just left in limbo with no idea who to call if there are any issues or who we might get to see when we turn up. It’s hard to build a relationship with any of them and equally they don’t know us or our history, ok they can read the notes but it’s not the same as getting to know a person. I’m quite lucky that I am also consultant led so I get the additional care and growth scans at the hospital so it’s a bit more reassuring. It’s just really frustrating that everyone I speak to has the same issues and even friends that had babies three years ago say the system was just as useless then and they never saw the same midwife twice. I know the NHS is struggling but improvements really do need to be made.

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