The pandemic has seen the ‘postcode lottery’ of maternal care in London

City Hall politicians have warned of a

Town Hall politicians have warned of a ‘postcode lottery’ of maternal care in London during the pandemic (PA Archive)

Sadiq Khan has been urged to help raise maternal care standards in London, as City Hall politicians said new mothers were being subjected to a ‘postcode lottery’ during the pandemic.

A new report from the London Assembly’s health committee calls on the mayor to advocate for London’s National Health Service to carry out a review to draw lessons from the Covid crisis.

A committee investigation looked at the impact of the pandemic on care, staff shortages and existing inequalities in the system.

She found that different trusts were taking different approaches to enforcing Covid restrictions and that maternal care units were having difficulty retaining staff as the pandemic progressed.

Committee chair Krupesh Hirani said: “I became a parent during the pandemic and have seen firsthand that it has had a significant impact on the way maternity services are delivered in London.

Krupesh Hirani, Labor London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow (London Assembly)

Krupesh Hirani, Labor London Assembly Member for Brent and Harrow (London Assembly)

“Services have been brought back to a minimum, some appointments have been conducted remotely, wider support services have been scaled back and, perhaps most notably, restrictions have been placed on birth partners attending scans and appointments.

“We recognize that this has been a difficult time for the NHS and that restrictions are in place to keep people safe, but our survey shows that lessons need to be learned from the pandemic on how to improve maternity care in London.

“Through our survey we heard of supportive and caring teams of midwives in London hospitals, but we were also told of difficult experiences while restrictions were in place, in some cases with long-term consequences for mental and physical health” .

Mr. Hirani, a Labor member representing Brent and Harrow in the Assembly, added: ‘The Mayor has a role to play in pushing for change in maternal health outcomes across our city and we urge him to accept our recommendations and stand up for in the name of those who use these services in our city”.

In response, a spokesperson for Khan said: “The mayor meets regularly with NHS London leaders to support and challenge them to deliver high quality services to all Londoners, including maternal health services.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (PA)

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan (PA)

“There is no escaping the pressures they are facing from many years of underfunding by the government, and the mayor continues to ask ministers to provide the necessary funding for our NHS and social care services.

The spokesman said Mr Khan “looks forward to examining the London Assembly report in full and will respond in due course”.

Meanwhile, a spokeswoman for the NHS in London acknowledged that ‘more needs to be done to ensure high quality care for all’.

She said: “Improving maternity services continues to be a priority and we are determined to listen and act on the feedback.”

As examples of recent progress, she said the organization had recruited 190 new midwives across London, along with 12 midwives and was creating several new posts to support wellbeing, as well as supporting the development of new mental health services for maternity.

A mother shares her story

Felicity Forsyth, pictured with daughter Leomi and partner Wilf (Felicity Forsyth)

Felicity Forsyth, pictured with daughter Leomi and partner Wilf (Felicity Forsyth)

Felicity Forsyth was living with her partner Wilf in east London when she gave birth to their daughter, Leomi, in January 2021.

“My daughter was having difficulty breathing and the midwife could tell during labor that they should call the paramedics,” said Ms Forsyth, who had chosen to give birth at home.

Her daughter was taken to the NICU [neonatal intensive care unit]where she received treatment, and Ms Forsyth went to the maternity ward, where she would go on to spend 48 hours alone in a private room.

During that time, the new mother tested positive for Covid, despite showing no symptoms of the virus, and was told she could not travel to the NICU to see her baby.

“I was asking for pain relief and didn’t get it for hours afterward,” she said.

Felicity Forsyth was told she couldn't see her baby, because she tested positive for Covid (PA Wire)

Felicity Forsyth was told she couldn’t see her baby, because she tested positive for Covid (PA Wire)

“I have not received the meals I should have received and have had very little contact with anyone else. I still hadn’t touched or held my daughter at that point.

After two days, Mrs Forsyth decided to go home without her baby.

“It was a really tough decision, because I felt like I was leaving her, but they also told me I couldn’t see her — and I was alone in a room during that time and I could really feel my mental health deteriorating,” she said. .

“I was having panic attacks — and having never had a baby before, I didn’t know what to expect.”

Ms Forsyth said while she was “very grateful” for the treatment her daughter received from the hospital, she felt “excluded” from decisions about her baby’s care and was given “conflicting information” about how long it would be been kept in the unit for .

Ms Forsyth said she felt

Ms Forsyth said she felt ‘excluded’ from decisions about her baby’s care (PA Wire)

“It really felt like once I tested positive for Covid, I completely abdicated any rights and she was taken away from me,” she said.

After four days at home and still not reunited with their son, the couple decided to contact their local MP.

“We were told [by the hospital] that she had tested negative for Covid and would normally have been discharged home, but as we were still in the two week isolation period, still symptom free, she would need to stay in hospital for a further nine days,” Ms Forsyth said.

“He was no longer receiving treatment in the hospital – they were just keeping our baby there, who we hadn’t met yet.”

After contacting their MP, the couple were told their son could join them at home, but the new mother said the experience had a lingering effect on her mental health.

London Assembly report examines effect of pandemic on maternal care services (PA Archive)

London Assembly report examines effect of pandemic on maternal care services (PA Archive)

“I was diagnosed with PTSD about a year after she was born,” Ms. Forsyth said.

“I don’t remember the first six months of his life very well. I’ve had bad insomnia and flashbacks, as well as anxiety and depression.

“I was afraid that she would be taken away from me while we were in public places, and it was also traumatizing for my partner.

“You just want to be the parent you want to be, to give your child the best you can, and you’re just starting off with the back foot from the beginning.”

Ms Forsyth said she hoped the London Assembly report would result in more reflection on maternal mental health as decisions were made about the health of newborns.

“I am very grateful and appreciative to all the people who have provided the care. It just seemed like the restrictions coming from above didn’t take into account people’s humanity and people’s lived experience,” she said.

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