Newham mums see fruit in campaign to improve maternity care at hospital

Mums protesting at Newham Hospital after women came forward with allegations of screening breastfeed

Mums protesting at Newham Hospital after women came forward with allegations of screening breastfeeding and giving formula feed to babies without consent, behaviour the trust denies is in any written policy. Picture: Luke Acton. - Credit: Luke Acton

Mums campaigning for culture changes at the intensive care unit for babies at Newham University Hospital say they are seeing signs of progress.

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) is the ward that cares for premature and very ill babies.

Complaints about the ward included the use of screens to hide breastfeeding women from view and using formula to feed babies without mothers’ consent.

The trust has always maintained that there is no written policy mandating this and that the use of screens in only voluntary.

After a protest outside the hospital and a more than half a dozen meetings with hospital staff, the mums—now under the banner of Newham Mums Unite—say they are seeing progress.

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“We’re thrilled, we’re really happy with what they’ve said and the actions that the hospital is saying they’ve taken so far,” said Karis White, a mum who has taken a leading role in the campaign.

In an email to Karis, senior nurse Sherry Manning listed a number of changes planned for the ward.

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They include posters reminding mothers of their rights regarding screens, the reiteration of the importance of breastfeeding to ward staff and UNICEF neonatal care training.

“We feel like it’s progress. It’s some real, tangible progress for the first time,” Karis added.

Mums protested outside Newham Hospital to oppose the use of screens to hide mums breastfeeding in th

Mums protested outside Newham Hospital to oppose the use of screens to hide mums breastfeeding in the neonatal inensive care unit among other issues with the ward.. Picture: Luke Acton. - Credit: Archant

“We think there’s a whole list of things they’re doing to actually make meaningful change on the ward.”

Karis is keen to point out that this is not the end of the campaign.

The hospital has offered to allow the group to audit the process of reforming the culture at the NICU—an offer they mums intend to take them up on.

“It’s such good news, but, at the moment, it’s words on a page,” said Karis.

“What will be the test is when someone actually walks around the ward to actually see that the staff are doing all these things.”

Louise Crosby, director of Nursing at Newham University Hospital said the hospital is pleased with the progress at the NICU and thanked the mums for working with it to make the changes.

“We have been able to take really positive steps forward in a relatively short space of time, which we hope shows the absolute dedication of our staff and our commitment to improving our services,” she said.

“There is certainly more for us to do, but we have a very clear vision for where we are heading and we look forward to continuing to work closely with our Newham mothers and the local community.”

Last week, Karis went to Westminster for a meeting of the Infant Feeding All Party Parliamentary Group.

Glasgow Central MP Alison Thewliss, who chairs the group, and East Ham MP Stephen Timms both gave their support to the campaign.

Newham Hospital last week saw its efforts to improve praised by health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

It rated maternity at the hospital as ‘requires improvement’.

Maternity at the hospital has been an issue for some time. Last year it was rated ‘inadequate’.

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