The Wokingham Paper

New review into baby loss support pledged by Royal Berkshire Hospital

Siena Furneaux
Karen with her baby Siena Furneaux

SENIOR staff at the Royal Berkshire Hospital are to review how support is provided to parents following stillborn deaths and miscarriages.

It follows a meeting with Karen and Jon Furneaux whose daughter, Siena, tragically died when she was starved of oxygen during labour.

The couple compiled a dossier of over 450 responses to an online survey they launched across Wokingham, Reading, Woodley and Binfield.

They presented the results at a meeting with Steve McManus, RBH Chief Executive and Director of Nursing Caroline Ainslie.

The hospital is now drawing up an action plan aimed at improving the delivery of support and care to parents who lose a child in labour or through miscarriage.

The couple returned to the RBH 18 months after they lost little Siena and said they were “very reassured” with the hospital’s response.

“To be honest we didn’t know how our comments would be received,” said Karen.

“However, we were very encouraged by their very positive response and we look forward to working together to improve the care and services parents receive.”

Karen said they discussed three main points of concern raised by parents.

“The survey showed 81% of parents weren’t offered any form of emotional support following the loss of a baby.

“We discussed in great length ways to improve communication through means of follow up letters and emails, signposting of support services through community midwives and the timing of when support was offered to ensure parents are always directed to the services available to them.

“The second area of huge concern was the location of the scanning department. All women who have knowingly miscarried or have a suspected complication are scanned in the same maternity area as couples with healthy pregnancies.

“Parents suffering loss sat in the same waiting area, watching happy couples leave clutching scan photos, described this as ‘traumatic’ and ‘cruel’.  Steve McManus advised that he will investigate the reasons as to why this is currently set up the way it is so we can look at options to overcome this.

“The survey showed how news of the loss of a child was delivered in an often insensitive manner. There was a lack of empathy, sympathy, care and understanding from some, not all, staff.”

Karen added that parents who had received empathy and kindness from hospital staff felt it had really helped their experience. Those who were given information about miscarriages or stillborn deaths and treated with dignity and ongoing support were more likely to say they had been given outstanding care.

“Steve and Caroline were visibly very saddened to hear of the experience many parents from the borough had gone through, particularly as they are working tirelessly to continually improve the standard of service and care at the Royal Berks,” she added.

“They have promised to draw up a plan of action which would also include parent stories as part of the staff training as they feel it is more powerful if parents are able to share their experiences through their own eyes.

“We want to thank everyone that completed our survey. It wouldn’t have been quite so powerful without all your voices.

“Our work with the hospital will continue.”

And the hospital was also pleased with the constructive meeting.

Mr McManus told The Wokingham Paper: “We welcome feedback on our services as listening to the patient experience helps us to understand where we can do better and where we are providing a good service.

“I would like to thank Mr and Mrs Furneaux for sharing their experience, and for giving us the opportunity to hear about the tragic loss of baby Siena, to gain a real understanding of what they have been through and to discuss their concerns.  

“It was a very positive meeting and we brought back a number of suggestions that have been shared with our maternity and gynaecology teams and work is already underway to see how these may be used to improve our services.”

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