Are mothers in the UK being abandoned by the NHS?
C is 7 months old today and I haven’t seen any medical person with her (apart from to get her jabs done by a nurse) since she was 8 weeks old. Whereas by 7 months old L had seen the paediatrician in France 8 times for routine check-ups. I have had no phone calls, letters or enquiries from anyone in the NHS as to how C is doing.
Fortunately C is in perfect health, she feeds well, sleeps well and is generally a very happy and contented baby. I weighed her at a friend’s house today (she has proper baby scales) and C is slap bang in the middle between the 25th and 50th centile, so I’d say there’s nothing to worry about there. As for me, I’m doing really well too, and I’m definitely in a much better place now than I was when L was the same age.
I’m very lucky in that I have a great support network in Hubs, family and friends. I also did the NCT refresher course and met a great bunch of mums who I still meet up with weekly, on top of that in our street alone there are at least 6 babies aged 3-7 months, so I’m far from alone.
However I do wonder what happens to the mothers whose babies are not thriving, who are not sleeping, or where the mothers are suffering through lack of sleep, lack of support or various forms of depression. Do they pass through the net or does the NHS somehow pick up on them? I chatted to my baby mum friends about this and none of them have been contacted by doctors, health visitors or anyone “medical”, and most of them have not seen a health visitor or doctor since their babies were around 8 weeks old. They are all second mums, and their babies, and they themselves, are doing well. But how does the NHS know who is doing well and who is struggling?
When I think back to L’s first year in France it couldn’t be more different, she had a paediatrician who we had a check-up with every month. She would be weighed and measured each month and this information would be entered into her “Carnet de Santé” (equivalent of our red book), she got her jabs there, the arrival of teeth were noted at these appointments as was her food intake, from the early months of just milk, through to what foods she’d been introduced to each month (although I did have to lie about doing baby led weaning!). Whilst that is possibly overkill it did at least give the French health service an overview of mothers and their babies and possibly a heads up if things were going badly.
Whilst I’m on the subject I don’t find the red book overly helpful and I often refer to L’s Carnet de Santé as it is far more complete. In fact I based a lot of my weaning (introduction of solids) for C on the information in L’s Carnet de Santé as I couldn’t find much useful information on it over here.
What do you think? Did you find you got enough support from the NHS? Is the French system too much?
Personally I’m happy with the system in the UK as I have very few questions about C as she’s so easy, and with her being my second I feel a lot more laid back too. But I know that my French family and friends are utterly shocked to hear that no one has examined C since she had a quick check over at 8 weeks old. Oh well, I doubt it’s the last time one of our family’s culture gets shocked by the other cohabiting culture!
I didn’t feel as though I got nearly enough support. Especially more so after my twins were born. The midwife just plain forgot about me so I ended up giving my hospital notes to the health visitor myself. While I was pregnant with the twins I had to remind the hospital when I was due for a blood test. Then once I’d had the twins, nobody told me anything about Home Start. I wish I’d known! Fortunately we muddled through and all is well but I have to admit to feeling a bit abandoned at the time!
I think it’s easy for people to slip through the cracks if they’re not pushy enough. Having said that, in France there was no check-up for me or my baby from being discharged from hospital when L was 5 days old to her first month check-up at the paediatrician’s, 4 weeks later. I’m glad everything turned out ok for you in the end.
I have wondered the very same thing, as I have my old carnet de sante with me and I remember our French family doctor very well, basically the same from when I was 4 years old and he is still my parents’ doctor.
I haven’t had any problems with my daughter but I am also aware that it is a lucky thing, because although they do say that ‘mothers know best’ whether their children are well or not, I don’t think that’s actually the case in the early months, and things are very easy to overlook. I regularly saw my HV because I took my daughter to be weighed at the surgery regularly, but HVs ARE NOT DOCTORS, and GPs are not paediatricians!
Do be honest, despite the fact that my daughter is well, I am still appalled by the lack of aftercare and health prevention for children in the UK, I would much prefer regular check-ups and I do not think that the French way is overkill at all. If your child is healthy, it’s reassuring and if they are not, it’s necessary. In this country we have never seen a paediatrician, in fact, I don’t even know that we could if we wanted to unless there was something seriously wrong, and I don’t think that’s right.
It’s interesting to hear the point of view of a French person here too. Having said all of the above I have found this time round to be far less stressful and far more reassuring than my first time round in France, but it’s hard to say if that’s because my second daughter is easier than my first or if it’s because I’m more chilled second time round, or if it’s because the system is better here. Who knows?!
I think every country is different but I do believe the NHS is a wonderful, vital resource and I know any issues I can be seen by a dr asap or can take my kids to A & E.
As the daughter of a (retired) NHS nurse and the sister of an NHS doctor I totally agree with you. I think the problem with post-natal care is that funding has been reduced and the follow-up from health visitors tends to be reserved for the more fragile mothers, which is great. However I just hope that those who need the help get it.
We had amazing NHS treatment for L when she was 4 years old and had a severe arm break, I will never forget that, and the fact that I didn’t have to put my hand in my pocket for any of it is such a privilege that we have in this country.
Completely second A Frog at Large’s point of view. I’ve been in the UK for 7 years and my 2 year old daughter is born in France. Thanks for this post, really useful to see I’m not the only one feeling the lack of a paediatrician there to “accompany” you on the road to serene parenthood. Yes the French system is probably over the top, but then the NHS is way too relaxed in my opinion!
I think so much also depends on where you live in the UK – I live on the border of two London boroughs and they offer very different levels of service. One thing I don’t miss about the French system though is paying for healthcare!
I am an American first time mom living in London. I hate the NHS but my husband and I work in public interest jobs and cannot afford private health insurance. I long for a pediatrician! I absolutely feel abandoned. At 8 months I expected to finally get my daughter checked for the first time since 8 weeks. I called the HP and HV numerous times and they told me I would get a letter and blew me off. When I tried asking the GP questions about my baby’s development she told me I have to ask the HV. The HV told me a letter would come. I finally got my daughter’s check up today just under 13 months and they found uneven creases in her legs, referred back to GP. My husband and I are very upset, apparently this indicates hip dysplasia which is more likely to be treated successfully when caught early. Why was I blown off for months?
Even more infuriating– instead of an appointment with the HV’s full attention we were invited to a 2 hour session where we were treated like morons who don’t know about security gates, forced to do rhyme time while trying to ask important questions, and the HV complained when only three of us showed up to the session. How many other slots did I miss in the months of pursuing them? I am thoroughly disgusted with the entire system!
That’s such a shame that you’ve had such bad experiences, I would recommend trying to change your GP if possible, and can you change your HV too? Our local GP is great and will see us and answer any questions I might have about our daughters. As far as HVs go we just have a drop-in clinic where we can be seen, have the babies weighed and ask any questions, so it’s not the same person each time.
I really hope you get some answers and some help. Good luck.
I know some people moan about the NHS, but Id much rather have it than be in the USA. I have been there many times, and most people are scared to go the hospital, simply because they can not afford it.
That really is scary! I know that having to pay upfront for healthcare in France made me think twice when I first moved there and didn’t have top-up insurance.