Limited visiting hours to postnatal wards strongly impacted the experiences of women, due to not having their partners for emotional practical support present. This was particularly noted by first-time mothers, women who had c-sections or more complex labour requirements, and non-native speakers, who struggled with being able to do things on their own and relied on staff for support.
Women felt anxious at not being able to have their partners at important antenatal appointments, particularly during scans. Some women expressed their disappointment that their partners were unable to view their baby, though some were given a video.
Women reported that Booking Appointments (the first appointment with a midwife) felt rushed, expressing concern over accuracy of the information being taken and the overall administration, such as delayed or missed appointments.
Phone and virtual appointments felt too impersonal and rushed, with an overall preference for face-to-face and video appointments.
People overall spoke of supportive and caring staff but there were also a large number of negative comments particularly relating to lack of support from staff on postnatal wards.
First-time mothers largely expressed anxiety over partners not being able to attend with them, particularly the lack of emotional support, and not knowing what to expect from appointments and labour.
The maternity team at Chelsea & Westminster Hospital responded positively to our report, and are committed to using our findings to further improvements:
"We want to thank Healthwatch Richmond for their support and energy in producing this report. We welcome the findings to help us drive any improvements we may need to make in relation to: visitor restriction policies, experiences of postnatal care particularly on the ward, virtual appointments and communication especially that being offered online.
The leadership team are committed to reviewing these recommendations in order to enhance the quality of care given to women, in particular the postnatal period, in preparation for current and future planning."