Great NHS Gamble, Day 3: 25 medics saved my life giving birth
A mum who almost bled to death after giving birth has revealed she would not be alive today if she hadn't had her baby in hospital.
Rebecca McDermott, 32, of Ribbleton, Preston, has spoken out as part of Johnston Press’ investigation into radical plans to shake up the NHS in a bid to plug a financial black hole.
Rebecca, who had her life saved by 25 medics at Royal Preston Hospital and needed nine blood transfusions, fears if major changes to the NHS mean less hospitals, lives will be put at risk.
She said: “If I had been at home or in a midwife only unit and needed to travel to have surgery, I would not be here to tell the tale.”
“I can remember trying to open my eyes but they would not open.
“The next thing I knew was waking up seven hours later in intensive care with all my family around me and I looked at them and asked: ‘Am I dying?’
Rebecca, who lives in Ribbleton, Preston, was 24 when she gave birth to her daughter Hayley, who is now eight.
Her pregnancy went smoothly although she was told at her 20 week scan her placenta was lying low.
But at another scan at 32 weeks, she was told everything was fine and the placenta had moved out of the way.
Rebecca, now 32 says: “After that, everything went smoothly and I went two weeks over my due date so had to go into hospital to be induced.
“I gave birth naturally and it went fine and was quite a fast labour at four hours.
“However, after the birth, they could not contract me back down and I was bleeding heavily.”
Rebecca underwent nine blood transfusions and was taken to theatre twice and more than 25 doctors and midwives rushed to her aid to save her life.
Rebecca says: “The doctors, nurses and midwives were all brilliant in how they saved my life and Hayley’s life and I am just so thankful I was in a hospital.
“I was extremely lucky to have all those medics around me and get the help I needed straight away.
“If I had been at home or in a midwife only setting and needed to travel to have surgery, I would not be here to tell the tale.”
Now that women are giving birth later in life, a nationwide shortage of midwives and an ageing midwife profile is putting unprecedented pressure on maternity services.
And the situation could reach crisis point as analysis of the NHS Sustainability and Transformation plans shows around 11 maternity and neonatal units across England may be facing closure or consolidation.
The Royal College of Midwives were concerned that many of the plans – particularly those outside of London – do not give many details about maternity changes and transformations.
The plans include more midwifery units and birth centres and improving the choice and personalisation of maternity services.
Jacque Gerrard, director for England at the Royal College of Midwives, said: “There is a lot going on but it is still very early days.
“There are ambitious things such as looking at more personalised care plans, better unbiased information and digitalised maternity tools that women can access.
“There is also work going on into looking at improving antenatal and postnatal care and trying to do it via a personalised maternity care budget.
“There are pioneer sites in Cheshire and Merseyside testing this model.
“In a nutshell, it means where the woman goes, the budget should follow her such as she wants for things such as hypnotherapy on top of her agreed care.
“Women on the pilot sites will not be asked to pay any top-ups.
“But until we test it, we don’t know how the personalised maternity care budget will work.”
Dr Gerrard says evidence shows births in midwifery units are safe.
She said: “Midwives are skilled and educated and trained to degree level and base their care on evidence.
“There are certain women with complications you would not advise to go in there.
“Midwives view it as a positive to have more births at home and in midwifery units if that is what the woman wants. At the end of the day, it is the woman’s choice and it is up to the midwife to make it happen.
“Regarding the issue that sometimes things go wrong in labour, midwives are skilled and trained to pick up on deviations from the norm sooner rather than later and women are transferred to a consultant when needed.”
Dr Gerrard says the midwifery transformation plans include more midwifery units, more professional and family friendly care and being able to support women to have choices based on their individual needs and circumstances.
Jessica Ormerod, maternity spokesman for the National Health Action Party, which is fighting to save the NHS from being turned into a US-style health service, believes we could be going back to Victorian times.
She believes a push for more home births or births at midwifery led units could cause women who experience problems during labour to be at risk.
She says: “The STP plans seem to suggest fewer hospitals so that means people will have to travel further to get whatever care that they need.
“Maternity is already massively underfunded and understaffed across the country and has been for years.
“Women who have no problems and are young and healthy can give birth at home or in a birth centre.
“But when it comes to labour, it can be so unpredictable and you can go from being a healthy individual to dead very quickly.
“The important thing is that any woman, whatever kind of birth she chooses, needs to be able to access acute care quickly should she need it.
“But if the STPs reduce acute care centres and hospitals with A&Es, they won’t be able to do things like blood transfusions and surgery.
“If you are in a hospital that does not have acute services and if you have complications, then you will need to be transferred to one.
“It seems we are going backwards and going back to big hospitals which will not be able to give individual care properly.
“There is a real worry that we will return to Victorian times and that more women will die in childbirth.”
An NHS England spokesman said: “The number of midwives has been steadily increasing over the last five years and it is safer than ever to give birth in this country, so much so that - amazingly - research recently published in the Lancet shows that pregnant women now have a lower risk of death than their male partners.”