When you are pregnant, there are so many things to think about, including includes whether to go for NHS vs private maternity care. So, what is the difference between the two? We’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions.
Is it safer to have my baby privately or on the NHS?
The first thing to stress is that both private and NHS hospitals will make the safety of you and your baby their utmost priority. Maternity staff are highly trained in obstetric care and hospitals will have protocols in place if additional support is needed, including providing special care baby units (SCBU).
Most pregnancies and births are straightforward, but some specialist NHS hospitals are designated to manage the most complex births. This includes University College Hospital, which, in addition to SCBU, has a specialist fetal medicine unit, a neonatal intensive care unit and an adult intensive care unit on site.
Some of the most specialist units offer both NHS and private care. At University College Hospital, private patients stay in the newly refurbished private ward, The Fitzrovia Suite, which is directly adjacent to the NHS facilities and enables immediate 24/7 access to all specialist care if needed.
Who will look after me?
When you give birth as an NHS patient, your antenatal care will be managed by your hospital’s midwifery team if you are having a vaginal delivery. You would probably only see a consultant antenatally if you or your baby have any complex needs. The midwives will be there to help deliver your baby and there’s always a team of doctors including a consultant obstetrician on hand. If there are complications, your care will be supported by the doctors on the ward that day.
If you are having a c-section on the NHS, the doctor and anaesthetist on duty at that time will manage your birth.
If you opt for private care, you can choose your consultant obstetrician (some hospitals also have a midwife-led private option). Your chosen consultant will answer any of your questions and will look after you throughout your pregnancy, delivery and in the days afterwards.
You will also be able to arrange private antenatal appointments at a mutually agreed time, whereas your appointment times in NHS care are chosen for you.
How much control will I get over my delivery?
There are lots of options around your birth – delivery method, pain relief, etc. Available options will vary between hospitals. For example, not all facilities offer water births, so you may want to research that in advance.
You will be able to choose your preferred delivery method (c-section or vaginal delivery) whether you are an NHS or private patient. Your preference will always be discussed with you to ensure it is a safe plan for you and your baby.
In either an NHS or private setting, you will be able to choose from a range of pain relief options, which will be appropriate to your own clinical circumstances. A private setting will usually have an on-call consultant anaesthetist to provide epidural anaesthesia on demand if requested.
Where will I stay after the birth?
On the NHS, after giving birth, you will move from the delivery room to a postnatal ward. In most NHS hospitals these will be shared with other new parents and their babies. NHS single rooms are usually reserved for patients who have a clinical need for them. Each hospital will have its own policy on whether your birth partner can stay overnight.
As a private patient, you will stay in a single en suite bedroom, which usually includes hotel-style amenities, like a mini fridge, a safe and personal TV. Private hospital rooms usually have an additional pull-out bed for your birth partner to stay overnight comfortably.
Private ward menus will also have a wider selection of options (often including a high tea) and mealtimes will be more flexible.
What will my aftercare be like?
Once your baby is born, you may want support with your preferred feeding method, dressing, or bathing your baby. Midwives will be available to support you with this wherever you give birth. University College Hospital, for example, is one of only two London hospitals to receive full accreditation in UNICEF’s Baby Friendly Award programme, recognising their work in delivering high quality breastfeeding support.
On a private postnatal ward, the ratio of patients to staff will be significantly lower, so your midwife would be able to spend more time with you.
Your private consultant will be on hand throughout your stay to personally oversee your care.
If you would like to find out more about University College Hospital’s private maternity service which offers the best of both worlds, please contact:
020 3051 5583
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