Maternity units are the worst staffed at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney.

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at Colney. - Credit: Evening News © 2009

Maternity units are the worst staffed departments at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (N&N) and are having to turn pregnant women away.

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As reported on Thursday, an urgent review is being carried out by the hospital into the lack of midwives.

And hospital reports, which show nurse and midwife staffing levels in every unit and ward at the N&N, reveal that the three maternity units - the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), the Midwifery Led Birthing Unit (MLBU) and the Delivery Suite - regularly have the lowest levels of midwives and nurses in the hospital (see graphic above).

Today we publish more stories from mothers of their experiences of giving birth at the hospital, including some of the more than 200 comments we received on Facebook about the N&N's maternity ward.

Many of those comments are positive about the staff and experience at the hospital. But mothers saw first hand how midwives and staff are under severe pressure.

Cat Stone from Felbrigg who was unimpressed with her experience of giving birth at the N&N. Photo: S

Cat Stone from Felbrigg who was unimpressed with her experience of giving birth at the N&N. Photo: Submitted - Credit: Archant

The hospital says new midwives are joining but the lack of staff means that the maternity unit was forced to close to pregnant women 16 times from May to November last year. A further six women were turned away in May and June this year.


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The NICU and MLBU were the worst staffed units in the hospital for midwives and nurses in June, with just 78pc and 79pc of the scheduled hours worked in that month respectively. The MLBU sunk to a staffing low for night shifts in June, with 73pc of planned staffing hours actually filled.

The figure for the delivery suite was 89pc. That compares to 93pc at the delivery suite for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King's Lynn in June and 105pc for the James Paget University Hospital's delivery suite in Gorleston.

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There were only two other wards and units in Norfolk hospitals so badly staffed for nurses in June as the MLBU at the N&N. They were ward 16 at the James Paget, a general medicine ward, which also had a 73pc staff fill rate, and Shouldham Ward, a palliative care ward at the QEH, which was the lowest in Norfolk with only 60pc of planned staff hours worked.

Victoria Wade from West Rudham who praised N&N staff after complications with her pregnancy.

Victoria Wade from West Rudham who praised N&N staff after complications with her pregnancy. - Credit: Archant

Frances Bolger, head of midwifery at the N&N, said: 'We continually carry out staffing level reviews and amend the number of staff members dependent on demand, patient care required and support in the community. We have recently welcomed eight new members of staff with a further 15 joining us in September across the maternity and neonatal wards.'

'Hospital gave us wrong medical notes'

Ryan Kemp, 24, and his partner Rebecca Broom, 25, were unimpressed with their experience at the N&N.

Miss Broom went in for an examination in January.

Mr Kemp said when they got back to their Norwich home they had someone else's medical notes.

The couple returned them to the hospital and got their notes back. 'It was unacceptable ,' he said.

His daughter Harper was born on February 10 and kept in because she had low blood sugar levels. But Mr Kemp said she had to keep having blood tests because staff missed the times to take the tests. When they were ready to go home, Mr Kemp said staff at Blakeney Ward then couldn't find their notes.

'I wanted to get out as quickly as I could'

Cat Stone, 28, from Felbrigg was taken to Cley Ward when she arrived to give birth at the N&N on her due date of February 28 this year because the maternity unit was full.

That night her unborn baby passed a motion inside her which can be dangerous and she was taken to the delivery suite to give birth.

'I was due to push him out but the doctor couldn't grab the head and ripped and tore everything,' she said.

Her baby James had suspected sepsis and was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. Mrs Stone stayed on the Blakeney Ward for a week but she said staff failed to communicate with her about her boy's condition and treatment. 'I wanted to get out of the place as quickly as I could,' she said.

What readers told us on Facebook about the maternity unit at the N&N

•Ellen Moore wrote: 'I gave birth at the N&N on Thursday and all the midwives and other staff were absolutely amazing. I feel they went beyond what was expected to make the experience as positive as possible. I feel so lucky to be looked after by wonderful staff, and our wonderful NHS service.

•Gavin Staci Harman said: 'Delivery ward and Cley ward staff were amazing when I was pregnant with my son Jayden and I especially owe my thanks to everyone at NICU who saved my son's life.'

•Hayley Wild wrote: 'I can't fault any of the staff I saw at the N&N after having to be induced at 36 weeks.'

•Susie Winkworth said: 'I have given birth three times in the N&N. All experiences faultless. The wards are noticeably understaffed but the teams there are diligent and go above and beyond their duty.'

•Do you have a health story? Email nicholas.carding@archant.co.uk

•Get in touch with the investigations unit by emailing tom.bristow@archant.co.uk

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