Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Archive for the ‘Stafford Hospital’ Category

I don’t usually watch that much TV, that is except the odd trashy programme that I relax to, but I watched a couple of really interesting programmes last night that would be well worth trying to catch if you can.

The first is very relevant to my recent blog about the Stafford hospital investigation, it was a Dispatches programme entitled “Confessions of a Nurse” and was on Channel 4 at 8pm last night.

The programme was based around a You Gov survey which questioned nurses and midwives on their experiences.  The programme made uncomfortable viewing and called into question the conduct of some nursing staff, but also clearly showed the stressful conditions that staff are routinely expected to work under – for example no meal breaks, no toilet breaks and so on and the appalling conditions that some patients have to tolerate.  In my opinion, once again it showed a health service at breaking point.

This programme was followed on Channel 4 at 9pm by “The Great Sperm Race” which discussed the process of conception, but from an interesting angle – the programme makers magnified the size of a sperm to be the size of an adult person and depicted the journey of the sperm through to conception – really informative.

I am really sad, but not suprised as the news has unfolded this week about the Healthcare Commission Report into care given by Stafford Hospital.

I believe that similar situations are occurring throughout the UK, and that what has happened at Stafford is merely the tip of a terrible iceberg.  Whilst I am sure there have been mistakes made, I was outraged by Alan Johnson’s comments about poor management at Stafford.  The Government must take some responsibility for what has happened.  The NHS is in crisis.  Someone (with a greater mind than me) has to look at what is happening and make changes.  Clinical staff are overworked, indeed a year ago nurses and midwives were being made redundant in many Trusts and staff are expected to work even harder to make up shortfalls, alongside being given additional work in the form of clinical responsibility and paperwork.

The Report cited low staffing levels, inadequate nursing, lack of equipment, lack of leadership, poor training and ineffective systems for identifying when things went wrong.  I know from personal experience that the NHS is often reactive rather than proactive – staffing shortages mean that training sessions are often cancelled, and there is no time for proper planning.  Sickness levels are high due to exhausted staff.

I don’t want to scaremonger – I do believe that the NHS, on the whole, delivers “just about” safe care.  But that is it.  It is just about safe.  No TLC, no extras, and much basic care such as washing and feeding of patients is done by relatives.

It is for these reasons that I decided to leave the NHS and work in Independent Practice,  It was not an easy decision, but I felt that I was unable to give the quality of care and the continuity of care that I felt clients deserved.  I spent so much of my day apologising, and promising to get back to clients.

I am now very happy, giving good quality care, time and full continuity to my clients, but I do feel guilty that this care is not available to all, and I do feel huge respect for my colleagues who are still working within the NHS.

I believe that the public HAVE to be heard.  Staff are so exhausted that they don’t have enough energy to campaign, and they probably aren’t listed too.  As happened with maternity services in New Zealand, it is only when women and midwives work together that change can be effected.

We recently had a series of showings of “The Business of Being Born” around the country; women need to mobilize to improve things.

For ideas I suggest you look at or or feel free to contact me at to discuss your ideas.