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MK Hospital - Big Conversation: Giving Birth in a Pandemic

Milton Keynes University Hospital is launching a 12-week listening event to capture the experiences of women and families who used the hospital’s maternity services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Big Conversation: Giving Birth in a Pandemic (Big Conversation: Giving Birth in a Pandemic – Milton Keynes University Hospital) follows the publication of the Care Quality Commission’s annual maternity service survey today (Thursday, February 10).

The survey, last undertaken in 2019, was completed by 167 people who gave birth in February 2021 during Britain’s third national lockdown. The results for Milton Keynes University Hospital show slight improvements in people’s experience of antenatal services, as well as highlighting the strain on postnatal care, particularly as visiting was severely restricted at the time due to COVID-19.

Professor Joe Harrison, chief executive of Milton Keynes University Hospital, said: “This is the only survey of women and families using our maternity services during the pandemic, and it gives us a glimpse of the impact it had on their experience of antenatal services, labour and birth and post-natal care. Those experiences are ones that will stay with those families forever, and we want to understand them in more depth, with more families being able to contribute.

“More than 7,000 babies were born at MKUH during the last two years, and we want to hear from those families who used our maternity services through the pandemic. That’s why we are launching the Big Conversation: Giving Birth in a Pandemic event – so we can listen, really hear how our response to Covid-19 affected those using our maternity services, as well as learn for the future.

“The Big Conversation will run for 12 weeks, with women and families able to record their experiences online, anonymously if they wish. We will also run some in-person events and events online that will be more interactive. At the end of the 12 weeks, we will take all those experiences and produce a report with themes and recommendations for us, and potentially other organisations, to act on or consider.”

Chief Nurse, Nicky Burns-Muir, said: “We can clearly see the impact of Covid-19 on women and families in this maternity survey. When the women and people surveyed gave birth, the hospital was seeing a significant wave of people critically ill with and dying from Covid.

“We also saw a surge in demand for maternity services, with more babies born in 2021 than in previous years. This increase in demand, coupled with staffing challenges through the pandemic due to sickness and isolation, has sometimes meant concentrating maternity staff in our labour ward, so that women are cared for safely during labour and birth.

“We can see this pressure reflected in the survey, where the care women experience after birth in our post-natal ward has not always been as good as we would want to provide, and that women and families deserve.

“Our maternity staff have worked incredibly hard over the last two years and continue to do so in very challenging circumstances. It is important that their experiences are also captured in the Big Conversation event we will be running over the next 12 weeks. The experiences of everyone working in and using our maternity services are vital in continuing to improve the quality of the services we provide and the experience of those services for the women and families who entrust us with their care. I hope as many people as possible will share their experiences of giving birth during the pandemic with us over the coming weeks.”


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