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Having a baby is always a massive event and one which, for almost every woman in the UK, involves many encounters with the NHS. It certainly provides an insight into the current state of care for pregnant women and new parents.


Both my pregnancies took place after the Tory-LibDem coalition came to power, my first son was born in September 2010, and my second in November 2012.

During this time I felt thoroughly supported by a team of friendly and knowledgeable midwives. The quality of NHS antenatal classes around the UK is currently patchy, but my team in Bishopston couldn't be faulted. After the six sessions my partner and I advanced from knowing almost nothing about caring for a baby, to thinking we could navigate parenthood pretty well (little did we know!). However, they did mention their concern over budget cuts, and their fear that funding for the routine first at-home visit would be withdrawn.

I felt we were in safe hands at all the routine appointments and scans, and we were invited to view the hospital's maternity department in advance of "the big day". Things were looking good, and when my contractions started I knew I'd be well looked after. However, on arrival at the maternity wards we were told there was no room available, and the midwives were all busy.

Being a polite person, even in pain, I did what I was told and waited patiently on a trolley in an open ward. Every so often someone would come along and check my blood pressure, so I wasn't totally ignored. Nearly 24 hours later we were finally taken to our own room, and the unspoken message was "now get on with it". But my labour hadn't progressed since arriving at hospital.

Various methods were used to try to move things along (I'll spare you the details), but it became clear I was going to need an artificial hormone drip. This then necessitated an epidural, which then meant I needed a midwife with me continuously. Eventually I managed to deliver naturally although an emergency caesarean was almost on the cards.

After all this I was relieved, exhausted and rather emotional. In the middle of the night, after my celebratory tea and toast, my baby and I were taken to the postnatal ward. Now I understand it would be impossible to put each woman in their own room, but there was barely a moment's silence. The ward was packed to the rafters and clearly short-staffed, although the two midwives looking after all of us were doing a tremendous job. Desperate for sleep, I discharged myself the next evening, making the poor staff write up my notes in-between their constant running around.

I can't know for sure whether the birth would have progressed normally if I'd had a room and midwife assigned to me immediately. But if it had, the costs incurred by extra staffing and drugs would have been much lower.

My second birth was a planned caesarean as my son was breech (the wrong way up), and went like clockwork. I had total faith in all the staff, who made me very comfortable. Although again, the postnatal ward was overstretched and clearly struggling with a shortage of staff.

My overriding impression on both occasions was of fantastic and dedicated midwives, but simply not enough of them to provide the level of care that could and should be available for women at this crucial time. The Labour party is pledging to fund 3,000 more NHS midwives, and that's why I'm supporting Thangam Debbonaire as parliamentary candidate for Bristol West.


My experience of NHS maternity care by Jane Collingwood

Having a baby is always a massive event and one which, for almost every woman in the UK, involves many encounters with the NHS. It certainly provides an insight into...

petition.jpgLabour candidates challenge Bristol MP to support Clive Efford's NHS Bill in the House of Commons this Friday


 On Friday, a Private Member’s Bill from Clive Efford MP will be debated which, if passed, will restore real democratic accountability for the NHS, scrap the new competition framework and make sure NHS patients are always put first.


I and my colleagues Darren Jones and Jo McCarron, hoping to unseat Stephen Williams, Charlotte Leslie and Chris Skidmore respectively, in next May’s general election, have written to the sitting MPs to call on them to listen to the concerns of constituents, to note the pressures that Southmead, Bristol Royal Infirmary and local GP practices are under, and to support the bill. I will post news of any responses.

A copy of the letter in full:

Dear Stephen

Before the 2010 General Election, David Cameron said the NHS was his number one priority, and promised that he would "stop the top-down reorganisations that have got in the way of patient care". Then within days of becoming Prime Minister, his Government launched the biggest reorganisation of the NHS in its history. It was a reorganisation no-one voted for, that NHS staff didn’t want, and that has cost £3billion which could have been spent on patient care.

If a Labour Government is elected next May, we will repeal the Government’s Health & Social Care Act to undo the damage their reforms have caused. But I know it isn’t good enough just to make promises about what we will do after an election – which is why Labour is putting a Bill to Parliament this Friday to do away with the most harmful aspects of the Government’s reforms.

I am writing to urge you to vote with Labour MPs on Friday in support of this Bill.

The reforms brought about by the Government’s Health & Social Care Act have piled pressure on our health service. Implementing the reorganisation has taken £3billion out of frontline care. Pay-offs have gone to 4,000 members of NHS staff who were fired, then rehired. And rules have been introduced forcing doctors to put services out to the market, even if they do not want to, meaning large sums of money are being wasted administering tendering exercises. In a recent survey, two thirds of commissioners said they had experienced “increased commissioning costs” as a result of the new regulations. So Labour’s Bill will scrap these rules, saving money on bureaucracy which could be put into frontline care.

The Health & Social Care Act has also exposed the NHS to the full force of EU competition law, and established Monitor as an economic regulator to enforce competition in the health service. Ultimately this means doctors are not just forced to put services out to the market – it means providers must compete to cut costs, and cut corners, in order to win contracts. It means a race to the bottom and threatens the quality of care patients receive. So Labour’s Bill will scrap the competition framework and remove the role of Monitor as an economic regulator.

I have no doubts that you’ll be hearing from your constituents about the impact of your Government’s NHS reorganisation on the care patients receive – I certainly am.

Please use this opportunity to show your constituents where you stand on the NHS, and to start rebuilding trust from those who voted for you believing a Conservative Government would protect our NHS.

Given the public interest in the future of the NHS I am putting a copy of this letter on my website.

I’ll look forward to your response


Thangam Debbonaire


The briefing for the NHS bill can be found here

And here's my blog about Bristol's GP surgeries

Labour candidates challenge Bristol MPs on NHS bill

Labour candidates challenge Bristol MP to support Clive Efford's NHS Bill in the House of Commons this Friday    On Friday, a Private Member’s Bill from Clive Efford MP will...

For most people in Bristol West, poverty seems a long way away but child poverty is right here where we live. In Cabot, Clifton and even Cotham.


What are we doing in one of the richest cities in Britain – in one of the most well-off constituencies - with seriously disadvantaged children as our neighbours? Averaged out across the Bristol West constituency, 29 per cent of the children you see on the street live below the poverty line.

If that’s an average then there must be some blackspots and, yes, Lawrence Hill has 47 per cent of its children living in poverty. In Easton 36 per cent of children live in poverty and in Ashley it’s 31 per cent. The figures from put Cabot at 29 per cent, Clifton at 15 per cent and Cotham at 12 per cent.  Smaller rates in posher areas but I don’t feel comfortable knowing that practically everywhere in Bristol West at least one in every eight children is living in poverty.

Some sections of the national press blame the poor themselves for being workshy but this simply isn’t true. Nearly two thirds (59 per cent) live in a household where at least one adult is working.

When I’m out canvassing I meet these families. They are desperate. They have jobs and rates of pay most people wouldn’t even consider. Some have two, even three, part-time jobs, getting older children to look after younger children till they come home. Some have zero-hours contracts waiting around on no pay till the manager says “hey, we’re busy get cracking”.

Available all the time but paid only for the hours they work, these workers at the bottom of the pile have no idea how much money they will have each week.

Earlier this week I heard on our local BBC news that just 15 Bristol employers pay the living wage, now £7.85 an hour. You still hear businessmen say that their businesses would collapse if they paid staff more. 

Many comfortably off people I meet on the doorstep are sympathetic to those businessmen until I point out that those workers on poverty pay claim tax credits and benefits which we all fund through the taxes we pay. All of us are subsidising poverty pay. Your taxes add to their profit. The vast majority of people claiming benefits are in work.

Poverty for their children means a whole lot more than just a few meagre presents this Christmas. It affects their whole life. Life expectancy is reduced by eight years, physical and mental development is also reduced. Educational attainment is held back. These children are most often condemned to a cycle of poverty for the rest of their lives.

It doesn’t have to be like this and the last Labour government set itself a target of eliminating child poverty in a generation. They made a difference - one million children taken out of poverty before 2010 - but since then 250,000 children have slipped back below the poverty line.

Voters expect that their government will be for the people – but if it isn’t even on the side of the nation’s children, then as a government it has failed.

It is shameful and those ministers presiding over this worsening state of affairs should be ashamed.

The coalition’s stated aim was to reduce the deficit – we still have one of the worst in Europe – and fix the economy. Yet growth is slow and new jobs are largely low-paid, part-time jobs. We know this because the tax take is far lower than economists would normally expect, so people must be earning a lot less.

Labour had a growth stimulation package which the government ignored. A growing economy does provide the jobs and a future for our young people, more people in work more spending power.

Most people I meet in Bristol West want to end poverty, to create a future for the next generation. Sustainable growth is created through turning raw goods, knowledge and materials into the food, computers, energy, health care and whatever else we need to live in warmth and security. It then needs to be shared out fairly and pay for the health, education and other things best provided publicly.

I hear some people say we should pursue a “no growth” economy. I can understand that in part, when economic growth benefits only the very richest. But no growth would trap those families in poverty for ever.

I know where my priorities lie and fighting to end poverty in Britain is what I intend to do.

Thangam's comment piece in Bristol 24/7 10th November 2014

Shame of child poverty is all around Bristol

For most people in Bristol West, poverty seems a long way away but child poverty is right here where we live. In Cabot, Clifton and even Cotham.  

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