Unable to move and with her newborn baby crying out of reach, Neya Joshi was left alone for hours on an understaffed maternity ward and had to beg for a glass of water.
“It was awful, I was so helpless and so desperate, and no one was interested in helping me. I have never felt fear like it,” she said.
The medical copywriter, 30, was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder months after giving birth to her son Arjun at Croydon University Hospital in May 2020 and had therapy for a year to recover from the trauma.
She is one of thousands of mothers across the country experiencing poorer care because maternity units lack enough staff.
Data from 122 NHS trusts in England shows maternity units were forced to shut their doors to women in labour more than 323 times in 2020-21, with units shut for a total of 16,294 hours, the equivalent of 679 days. When this happens women are forced to go to an alternative hospital to give birth. Staffing shortages were given as a reason in more than two-fifths of the closures.
Joshi saw first hand the impact of a lack of midwives when she was admitted to hospital to be induced after her waters broke at the height of the pandemic. Visiting restrictions meant she was alone on a ward for 24 hours and, despite being told she was a high priority, there were no free beds.
“After they had started the induction I was told someone would come and check me within six hours but no one came and I was just left on my own for hours,” she said. Eventually, after concerns over her baby’s heart rate, she had an emergency caesarean section but her husband was then made to leave an hour later.
“I was taken to the postnatal ward and that’s where it all really went downhill,” she said. “It was awful. I was just lying there. I couldn’t move because I had the epidural and my baby was crying."
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Source: The Times, 6 February 2022
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