…. The conception rates of the youngest and oldest mothers are now close to converging (see chart). Middle-aged maternity may soon be more common than teenage pregnancy.
Advances in health care help to explain the convergence. Although assisted conception accounts for only a small proportion of pregnancies, it is growing more popular and more successful. Between 1991 and 2016, birth rates from in vitro fertilisation treatment increased by more than 85%. In 2016 more than 20,000 babies were born following IVF (out of a total of 696,000 births that year). About three-fifths of women who use it are 35 or over. Demand is likely to increase as women learn of others whose treatment has been successful. Ms Fenelon was inspired by a magazine article about egg-freezing……
…the Guardian’s health policy editor Denis Campbell spent a day in King’s College hospital in London. He found staff and patients who are devoted to the NHS but who can also clearly see what is needed in order to sustain the service for future generations.
A long-term plan designed to secure the future of NHS England has been delayed once again by Brexit. But as Britain’s health service heads into its annual winter beds crisis, the Guardian’s Denis Campbell visits King’s College hospital in London to find out what staff and patients need for the future – and how much it will cost.
From the perspective of west Wales there is no British health service.
I do not have access or choice to anywhere outside my own rural trust (Hywel Dda) unless the service needed is not available here. Even a second opinion has to be within the same trust.
There are four, and possibly five health services if Manchester is included. The WHO has said it will no longer report on an “NHS”.
The lack of choice, the covert rationing, and the unequal access to tertiary centres, primary care, and palliative care threaten to bring on civil unrest.
A Welsh mutual of three million people cannot offer the same quality of healthcare as one of 60 million. Even if the Welsh Government has tax-raising powers, there are not enough taxable earners to rise above the decline.
We seem to have forgotten the power and improved health outcomes in large mutuals. Since the UK’s health service has to be refashioned, now seems a good time to unify again, and re-establish the same rights across the country.
Increasing taxation to pour more into a holed bucket should not appeal to most taxpayers.
We need a new health insurance system (the original NHS was insurance based) and the caring professions will remain cynical until what replaces “in place of fear”, avoids bringing it back.
The mental cost of health and social care, especially for the elderly, is getting so heavy that Nurses are leaving. The monetary cost is so great that we may have to find completely novel solutions. Meanwhile, who is going to be the “Last Nurse Standing”? Don’t worry. patient and nurse will be smiling…
NHSreality has tried to get an answer from our local Trust on the relative rates of Neonatal, Infant and Maternal Mortality through a FOI (Freedom of Information) request. The result is below, but readers can read that it fails to address my questions. I asked for the relative perinatal, infant and maternal mortality rates for Hywel Dda compared to Wales and UK averages.
A meeting with a father who lost his wife and newborn baby inspired Jeremy Hunt to tackle Britain’s shamefully high rate of stillborn babies.
The health secretary said he would never forget the encounter with Carl Hendrickson, whose wife, Nittaya, and newborn son, Chester, died in 2008 during the scandal at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust.
Hendrickson insisted his surviving son, Conrad, who was 11 at the time, attend the meeting so he would “know for the rest of his life that his dad had done that”, Hunt said.
After this newspaper’s Safer Births campaign, the health secretary, who praised our highlighting of the issue, published plans last week to save more than 4,000 lives by halving rates of stillbirths, neonatal and maternal deaths and brain injuries.
Every day, eight babies are stillborn in England, the highest rate in western Europe……
Around 4,000 babies die unexpectedly in the last months of pregnancy or during labour every year in the UK – one of the highest rates of stillbirth in Europe, according to a major new series of reports by the Lancet……
The profession will not see this as positive. It marks the beginning of the end for self employed GPS. It is probably a waste of money, and it is part of the direction of travel, where fewer and fewer people have access to the expertise needed when they are ill. Differential diagnosis, risk analysis and safety netting are all part of a Drs training, and in the case of GPs, living with uncertainty so that good gatekeeping ensures minimal waste. These GP “Geese” who laid those golden eggs are not here now….
But it may be attractive to part time GPS with families often married to other doctors.
…Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee says she’s concerned about the lack of involvement of local clinicians:
Whilst we welcome improving access to services closer to people’s homes, it’s difficult to assess the impact this will have without knowing the intricacies of how it will work. It’s concerning to us that the initial reaction from LMC members suggests that they haven’t been involved in the design of the scheme.
It’s vital that local clinicians, who understand the needs of the local community, are involved in service design to ensure that patients receive the services they deserve.
As part of the work to improve access to local services, investment is desperately needed to ensure the GP estate is fit for purpose. Robust premises strategies must be developed, with the full involvement of LMCs. – Dr Charlotte Jones, Chair GPC Wales
Just as there wont be enough Doctors, there won’t be enough care homes. There are many opinions, but NHSreality fears that Wales is pouring money into a number of buckets which have holes in them. There are just not enough trained people: GPs, Nurses, Physiotherapists, Psychologists, OTs, Psychotherapists, Radiologists, Anaesthetists, you name them…
A sad and disturbing case illustrates a greater problem. The rates for Stillbirth in Wates are 20% higher than in England. Has this always been the case? On June 15th this year I wrote to the Chief Medical Officer of Hywel Dda University Trust asking for information on the rates of Maternal Death, Neonatal Mortality and Infant Death for the Trust, compared to the all Wales and to the all UK figures. I received the acknowledgement reply and was informed I would get a proper reply in 7 weeks. It is now some 14 weeks later and I have not had a reply. The case in the news involves intelligent and well informed professionals, who wish to remain part of a team and work within the health service. They are not trying to “gain”, but wish to change a culture so that learning occurs, and repetitive mistakes do not happen. If we wish to avoid the blame culture we need open and honest debate. No fault compensation would help greatly… Meanwhile I am writing again and including Stillbirths in
Two health professionals whose daughter died during labour after a series of hospital failures have called for coroners to be given power to investigate stillbirths.
Sarah Hawkins and her husband Jack said that it was “absolutely ridiculous” that baby deaths in England and Wales only merited the independent scrutiny of a coroner’s court if the child was alive when born.
Their daughter, Harriet, died in April last year, at 37 weeks, after errors by Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, including repeatedly denying Mrs Hawkins admission to hospital and failing to declare an obstetric emergency.
Mrs Hawkins was in labour for five days and after being told the baby was dead had to wait nine hours before Harriet was delivered.
Both worked for the trust, she as a senior physiotherapist and he as a consultant, but when they asked for an investigation they said they “were dismissed as mad, grieving parents”.
Mrs Hawkins, 34, said: “It just felt they were saying, ‘This is very sad, these things happen, now go away and grieve’. But we have both worked in the NHS all our careers. We wanted to tell them what they needed to know, to make sure it wouldn’t happen again.”
The couple were told there would be no inquest because the law states that a stillborn child or foetus is not a “deceased person”. “As a mum, to be told that your daughter isn’t defined as a person, because she wasn’t born alive is absolutely ridiculous. She had been kicking around, and had her foot under my ribs for months,” Mrs Hawkins said.
The couple said they were told by the trust that Harriet’s death was caused by an infection. It was only after challenging that and pushing for an external review that the death was “upgraded” to a serious untoward incident (SUI).
“It has been battle after battle after battle,” said Mrs Hawkins. “We don’t want sorrys. We want answers.” Mr Hawkins, 48, said: “I don’t think they really had a clue that the death of a baby in labour was a major incident. Their attitude was very laissez faire.”
Peter Homa, chief executive of the trust, has apologised but denied a cover-up. “I reiterate my condolences to Jack and Sarah and acknowledge the unimaginable distress and sadness caused by Harriet’s death,” he said.
“I apologise unreservedly that their pain has been worsened knowing that, had the shortcomings in care late in Sarah’s pregnancy not been experienced, Harriet might be alive today.”
The couple believe their daughter might have lived had inquests been held into previous stillbirths at the trust. They want the law to be brought in line with Northern Ireland where coroners can investigate stillbirths.
Mrs Hawkins vowed to keep campaigning. “We want to get justice for Harriet but also for all the other parents before us, and after us,” she said.
For an event so natural that none of us can avoid it, the business of childbirth has become an unfortunately ideological battleground. Since the 1960s advocates of “natural” birth have been pitted against defenders of medical intervention. The assumption, driven in part by advice from midwives, has been that a natural birth is somehow superior. In an interview with The Times today Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM), acknowledges that her profession has got the emphasis wrong. There are great benefits to birth without interventions, but they should be pursued in a way that is sensitive to every woman’s situation, not as an article of faith.
For 12 years the RCM, midwives’ professional and representative body, has campaigned, as a matter of policy, for births where the mother enters and completes labour without medical intervention. Avoiding epidurals, forceps, artificially induced labour or a Caesarean section, the RCM argued, was better for mother and child. Yet that orthodoxy has been criticised, on two grounds. First, it can take a psychological toll on mothers. Those who ask for medical intervention because of their own anxieties or past experiences, are often left feeling as if they have failed. The RCM has sensibly decided to scale back the use of value-laden terms such as “normal birth” in favour of more neutral phrases like “physiological birth”.
The second, and more trenchant criticism of old habits is that they risk putting patients in danger. There is some evidence to support this charge. In 2015 an inquiry into a catalogue of unnecessary deaths in a Morecambe Bay hospital found that midwives’ pursuit of normal childbirth “at any cost” was, in part, behind the failures.
James Titcombe, who brought the scandal to national attention after the death of his son, has warned that the pressure for a delivery without medical intervention is rooted not in concern for patient safety, but in ideology. There have been concerns, too, about the role that midwives’ prejudices may have played in a string of deaths at Shrewsbury and Telford Trust.
None of this means that more intervention is always better, or even that it often is. There is value in a physiologically natural birth — the touch of a mother’s skin to her child’s in the moments after delivery helps to build a bond; a profusion of tubes, doctors and medical instruments does not. Caesarean sections come with well established risks. Mothers are vulnerable to the complications of any major surgery, and researchers have found some evidence that babies born this way are more likely to suffer from asthma and obesity in later life.
However, parents are well able to understand these risks and come to a considered view on what is best for them. The dangers are greatest, in any event, when interventions are emergency measures, taken after the failure of a “normal” birth. Better that midwives speak openly and neutrally about the benefits and risks of epidurals, inductions and Caesarean sections, well in advance, to avoid eleventh-hour panics.
Healthcare in Britain mostly compares favourably to that in other countries. Childbirth, however, is the exception. Britain has among the highest infant mortality rates in western Europe. That is all the more reason for midwives to eschew ideology and focus instead on what will work best for mothers and babies.