JENNI MURRAY: How has maternity care gone back to the Fifties?

JENNI MURRAY: How has maternity care gone back to the Fifties?

  • Jenni Murray questions why the quality of maternity care in the UK has dipped
  • She also discusses her experience in taking part in the Full Monty On Ice
  • Jenni takes a look at the PVC trousers that Victoria Beckham was seen wearing

When I read the report on the maternity services at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust, I wept. An independent inquiry into the deaths of mothers and babies at the hospital had long been campaigned for by the Mail and it was seeing, in black and white, the stories of the women and infants and what they had suffered that reduced me to tears.

A total of 250 cases were examined in this interim report, chaired by Donna Ockenden, a senior Midwifery Advisor to the chief executive of the Nursing and Midwifery Council. Thirteen women and 42 babies had died. There were many stillbirths. Ockenden writes of a lack of kindness and compassion among some members of the maternity team.

One woman was invited for ‘a chat’ about the death of her baby. A ‘chat’ with no word of condolence in the letter?! Another was ‘in agony, but told it was nothing . . .the obstetrician called her ‘lazy’.

Another was ‘in great pain after delivery and left screaming for hours before it was identified that there were problems that needed intervention’. Another, who was in a midwife-led birth unit, was not adequately monitored ‘because the unit was busy’. Her baby died.

Jenni Murray (pictured) questions whether the UK has returned to the 1950s after reading reports about the quality of maternity care being offered at some hospitals

As I read about this catalogue of incompetence and cruelty, I began to wonder if we had gone back to 1950, when my mother, delighted at the free care she would receive in the new NHS, was left alone, on her back, legs in stirrups and in terrible pain, for 24 hours.

Her life and mine were saved by a consultant, who had just come on duty and spotted the difficulties we were having, dragging me out by forceps. He saved my life, but my mother was terribly torn and a swab was left inside her; she had to return to hospital for an operation when I was two weeks old.

I firmly believe that separation, so soon after we had made a bond, damaged our relationship. It was the reason why I was an only child. We survived, just, but she wasn’t going through that again.

When my turn to give birth came around, it was the 1990s, the natural childbirth movement had begun to gain traction and I was determined I wouldn’t suffer as my mother had.

I made a plan. I wanted a natural delivery. I wanted to walk around the hospital until the crucial moment, believing gravity would help the birth. I wanted to deliver crouched over a bean-bag in a darkened room with no drugs.

She revealed that her mother had been left in a maternity ward for 24 hours while in labour back in the 50s before finally being seen to (stock image)

All went to plan first time around in Southampton General Hospital and the second was a successful home delivery.

So, what has happened in the meantime? The review says that hundreds of women were pressured into having ‘a normal birth’.

Women can be made to feel ashamed if they can’t give birth naturally — a Caesarean has become something that’s required by women who are ‘too posh to push’ — but it can save lives.

Or could it be money that’s at the bottom of all these tragedies? A Caesarean costs double the amount of a natural delivery. Shrewsbury and Telford has had the lowest rate of Caesareans in England for the past decade.

Maybe. But that doesn’t account for the callous and incompetent care exposed in this report.

Ockenden’s list of actions must be taken up, particularly the last. ‘Women’s choices following a shared and informed decision-making process must be respected.’

Sexy shoes? More like a date night in A&E

Not many of us could get away with the tight PVC trousers Victoria Beckham calls her ‘sex pants’.

I was a little worried, though, about the picture she posted of herself standing on a ladder to seduce David into a date night.

A ladder and vertiginous high heels? If she carries on like that, they’ll be spending their date night in casualty.

Jenni Murray said that Victoria Beckham’s stunt where she stood on a ladder wearing PVC trousers to seduce David into a date night could have led to a night in A&E

I’m not surprised at Roedean’s old girls allegedly coming to blows amid rumours that boys will be let in to the elite school after 135 years. I had the benefit of single-sex education in Barnsley Girls High School where there was no distraction from boys who may have mocked us or flirted in a most irritating manner. If I had daughters, I would insist on a girls’ school. That option must remain for all girls.

My full monty? Never again

It’s done! The Real Full Monty On Ice is over and, on the whole, we have been thanked for our courage in wearing next to nothing on the freezing rink, to remind men and women to check themselves for signs of cancer.

Of course, we were terrified as we came to the final moments. Dropping the dress and wearing nothing but a bra and rather hefty pants was every bit as ghastly as I’d imagined, but thanks to the producers, we were only seen, darkly, from the back.

One critic described me as ‘looking magisterial on a sleigh’. Another felt I’d have been happier going to my book club (she was right).

I shan’t be doing it again, but if one person’s life is spared because of taking our advice to check yourself for signs of cancer, it was worth it.

Jenni Murray said she has no plans to repeat her appearance on The Full Monty On Ice but hopes that by appearing she has been able to save a life from cancer

Measles hell that makes me mad at anti-vaxxers 

What a hero Martin Kenyon has been in the fight against the anti-vaxxers trying to frighten us into thinking that a Covid-19 vaccination will do us harm.

He is 91 and one of the first people in the world to receive the jab. ‘There’s no point in dying now,’ he said, ‘having lived this long.’ He is one of the generation who knows what life was like before vaccinations, as, indeed, am I.

I had measles when I was three. My mother kept me in a darkened room, to protect my eyesight. I was, though, left with a lifelong battle with catarrh. But I survived. Others didn’t. The daughter of one of my mother’s friends died from measles, as did Roald Dahl’s daughter.

Remember, the anti-MMR vaccine doctor, Andrew Wakefield, who was struck off for falsely linking the measles, mumps and rubella jab to autism?

I shall put my trust in the science just like Martin Kenyon. Vaccines save lives.

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