Miscarriage conveyor belt: Women in depths of despair are treated heartlessly by NHS staff, says watchdog
A report by Nice says that patients who have lost their baby are often dealt with by 'insensitive' doctors, nurses and receptionistsMany are left to wait on wards where they can hear others giving birth, according to the report
23:17 GMT, 11 December 2012
Distress: Women who suffer miscarriages are often dealt with by 'insensitive' doctors, nurses and receptionists, according to a new report
Women who suffer miscarriages are being treated in a heartless ‘conveyor belt’ system, according to the NHS watchdog.
Its report says patients who have lost their baby are often dealt with by ‘insensitive’ doctors, nurses and receptionists.
Many are left to wait on wards where they can hear others giving birth, according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
Setting out new guidelines, the watchdog is demanding that staff be retrained to show ‘dignity and respect’.
Nice says that staff must be aware of the ‘significant distress’ women go through during and after a miscarriage.
Its report also suggests new measures to stop healthy babies being aborted. In some cases foetuses are needlessly terminated after doctors are unable to detect a heartbeat.
Doctors are being told to carry out a second scan a week to a fortnight later to be sure a foetus is no longer alive.
There are also new guidelines to treat ectopic pregnancies, in which an embryo implants itself in the fallopian tube instead of the womb.
The condition occurs in one in 100 pregnancies and can eventually threaten the mother’s life. The foetus rarely survives. Doctors may confuse the symptoms of ectopic pregnancies with bladder infections or appendicitis.
Nice is urging GPs to offer pregnancy tests in routine appointments to ensure the condition is picked up earlier.
The watchdog also wants hospitals to run specialised ‘pregnancy assessment services’ at evenings and weekends as well as in the week, so that women have easy access to the best care.
Care: Nice wants hospitals to run more 'pregnancy assessment services'. Around one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage
Around one in five pregnancies end in miscarriage. Some 168,000 women go through the ordeal each year in England.
The chairman of the Birth Trauma Association, Julie Orford, who advised Nice, described how doctors gave her a ‘cup of tea and a leaflet’ after saying she had lost the baby.
‘It felt very much like a conveyor belt and I found it insensitive to be put in a waiting room full of people when we had been given such bad news,’ she said.
‘It was summer and the windows were open so I could hear ladies who were in labour on the maternity ward downstairs.
'This made it more upsetting because I knew I was in the process of losing my baby. Emotionally, I was devastated. I felt numb, shocked and emotionally drained.
‘Nobody spoke to you in a sensitive manner and I guess when there is a shortage of beds they are just trying to get you in and out.’
Gynaecology specialist Professor Mary Ann Lumsden of Glasgow University, who chaired the Nice panel, said: ‘We try to teach junior doctors that it doesn’t cost a great deal to be sympathetic.’
Health Minister Dr Dan Poulter said: ‘Pregnant women deserve the best care possible. Many hospitals offer it, but provision can sometimes show unacceptable variations throughout our NHS.’