Council leader tells of 'stifling' maternity heat after birth of daughter

Norfolk Norfolk District Council leader Tim Adams with fiance Amanda and their newborn baby Ella

Norfolk Norfolk District Council leader Tim Adams with fiance Amanda and their newborn baby Ella - Credit: Tim Adams

A council leader and his fiance have described "stifling" heat on maternity wards at the region's biggest hospital, following the arrival of their first daughter last week.

Tim Adams, leader of North Norfolk District Council and partner Amanda Hawksworth welcomed baby Ella at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at 3.20am on Monday, July 18, weighing 7lb 6oz.

The Cromer family had been in hospital since the previous Wednesday, with Miss Hawksworth being induced that day.

And while the 37-year-old new mother praised the caring nature of the staff who helped them, she said the heat was a struggle and grew frustrated at hold-ups in her inducement.

She said: "The heat was really stifling. The ventilation was particularly bad, there were not enough fans and I needed to be put on a fluid drip twice due to dehydration."

The hospital had a heatwave plan in place which saw a raft of measures brought in to try and mitigate the rising temperatures. These included additional drinks rounds and encouraging the use of fans and cooling towels.

Tim Adams (Liberal Democrats) is standing for Cromer division.

Tim Adams (Liberal Democrats) North Norfolk County Councillor for Cromer division. - Credit: Supplied by the Liberal Democrat

Hospital bosses say that are well aware of the issues with heat and are doing everything to mitigate them, but this is made increasingly tough by the department's position on the third floor, facing west, meaning it is one of the most sun-exposed parts of the building.

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A spokesman for the hospital said: "The executive and senior leadership team in maternity are well aware and doing everything they can to mitigate the issues.

"The location on level three west means that the sun hits the ward for most of the day."

Mr Adams, 31, said: "I think there needs to be more preparedness for the weather at it really was very uncomfortable, even though we left before the height of the heatwave."

Last week, a maternity services staff member raised concerns about the heat of the department with this newspaper.

They said: "The heat inside the maternity units was unbearable for the new mums, babies and staff. Other areas of the hospital have air conditioning, but there is nothing in this part of the hospital.

"Management needs to look at this immediately as it is dangerous for everyone in there, especially the new-borns who can't regulate their body temperatures as well as adults."

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher

The Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Picture: Nick Butcher - Credit: Nick Butcher

Liberal Democrat council leader Mr Adams said he would be raising the couple's concerns with the county council's health overview and scrutiny committee, also highlighting concerns over staffing levels in the department.

Miss Hawksworth said: "The care we did receive was really good and that is important to note, but it reached a point where I was just exhausted but could not go anywhere because there wasn't the capacity."

Mr Adams added: "We have no criticism of the nurses and midwives, but they were constantly rushed off their feet. 

"We need to be reassured there is a plan for the long term as this is really affecting the wellbeing of mothers and their babies."

An NNUH spokesman said the maternity department is currently operating with a 10.8pc vacancy rate, meaning one in every 10 roles needed to operate at full capacity is vacant.

They added: "We have a new lead midwife for recruitment, retention and staff engagement, and recruitment is taking place to fill vacancies."

In October last year, the hospital had more than 30 vacancies in the department, prompting it to take an "aggressive" approach to recruitment. 

In the most recent NHS staff survey, just 12pc of midwives said they were confident there were enough staff members for them to do their jobs properly.

However, the hospital's maternity services did come in for praise in a national survey conducted by the Care Quality Commission.

Stephanie Pease, divisional midwifery director at the NNUH, said at the time: "Over the last 12 months, we’ve significantly reduced midwifery vacancy rates, have a substantive leadership team in place as well as new digital midwife and fetal surveillance midwife.

"We have a range of quality improvement projects, including a specialist maternal medicine centre, improving our website and information sharing, listening to our service users and improving multi-disciplinary training for our staff.”