Do you live in Birmingham or Solihull? Q&A with Dr Andrew Coward about NHS services in Birmingham and Solihull - ANSWERS BACK

(33 Posts)
EmmaMumsnet Thu 13-Dec-12 16:45:21

If you live in Birmingham or Solihull we're inviting you to join a Q&A over the next couple of weeks with eminent Birminghmam GP Dr Andrew Coward about the services the NHS offer in Birmingham and Solihull. Dr Andrew Coward is Chair of Birmingham South Central (BSC) CCG. He is a grassroots GP in Kings Norton with 23 years experience on the front line of primary care

Do you have a question about vaccinations for your child? What services are on offer specifically for young children and babies in your area?  Are you unsure about when you should take your child to hospital rather than wait for the doctors? Post your questions to Dr Coward before end of Friday 21 December and we'll post up his answers the first week in January.

DrAndrewCoward Mon 04-Feb-13 11:09:49


Hello. One of the maternity wards at Good Hope Hospital has recently closed for good. Why was this done, when there were plenty of times when both maternity wards were so full, that they had to close to new admissions ??

I'm assuming that most people in Sutton and the surrounding areas will still be refered to Good Hope for their maternity care, but will then face being turned away at the time of delivery ? Where will they go then ??

Also, I have a 15yr old daughter with Scoliosis. She was first referred over 2 years ago, when I noticed a curve in her spine. We then waited over 6mths for an initial consultation, and each time I rang to chase it up, we were told that there wasn't enough clinics to cover patients ad that they basically didn't know when she'd be seen. I ended up having to involve my MP, and we were then seen within 2 weeks.

The whole service there though seems so unorganised and patchy. My daughter is now on the list for surgery. Originally we were told 10mth wait, and then when we rang up after ten months we were told it was more like 12.
I fully expect to ring after xmas and be told that it is now 16 mths or similar.
I understand that they are busy, but my daughter is in pain, with no end in sight and the hospital do very little to answer questions about clinics and appointments helpfully, and often sound like they are reading from a script, written by someone higher up.
Last time I spoke to someone there, they said they were going to send us an appointment for a nerve test at the QE. That was in October, and we still haven't had it.

However, whilst I am posting, I must sing the praises of the orthodontic staff at Good Hope Hospital. My 13yr old, has been having treatment there since she was 11, and the whole department have been fabulous, and nothing is ever too much trouble. Other departments should take note.

What you have experienced is a problem that we see all too often at present. From what I understand, there is currently a national shortage of spinal surgeons.

If your GP has agreed to refer you, and if you haven’t heard anything within 3 months, then I would suggest that you go back to your GP to try to take things further.

The NHS has an 18 week waiting list limit in its constitution, but unfortunately spinal surgery cases seem to be taking longer than this at present.

DrAndrewCoward Mon 04-Feb-13 11:13:30


I think I'm quite lucky with my GP - I can get appointments same day if I need, and don't have to phone at 8.30 to get one.

Also, I was lucky to be able to use the Birthing Centre at the Women's hospital, and when things didn't go to plan, get wheeled up a corridor to some very good natal care. Birmingham Women's is, rightly, a flagship hospital for pregnancy and birth, with the best of both worlds - midwife led care for those who are able to have a straightforward birth, and the best delivery suites in the UK for those who need a bit of extra help.

It's once baby has arrived it starts going downhill. I spent my first night with my daughter alone in a ward with 3 other new mums, all of whom had babies who were crying and who were not being given the support that they needed to have a stress free first night. Overnight auxillary care was pretty abysmal and I didn't get a lot of rest because of the constant crying of the other babies, which, combined with pregnancy hormones was not a good start.

The breastfeeding support was "oh she's latched and had a feed so you're okay". The breastfeeding support worker I requested to speak to never turned up and I ended up with thrush, shredded nipples and extreme pain.

To get good breastfeeding support I had to drive to the Kings Heath Breastfeeding support clinic which takes place on a Friday. Thankfully a community midwife mentioned it at my day 12 check up. Bea and Helena deserve to be given so much more funding and support as they were struggling with sheer numbers when I attended, just because they are the only decent breastfeeding support clinic in the area and mothers travel from all over Birmingham to get advice from them. We need more clinics like theirs - it should be held up as some sort of gold standard. Not all mums have the support needed to get to Kings Heath so there need to be more clinics like that throughout Birmingham.

Again, I’m very glad to hear about people getting good care – but I am disappointed to hear about the level of postnatal care you received. We do strive for consistency, but it seems that we still have some way to go in certain areas.

Breastfeeding is very important for both newborns and new mothers, so I’m glad to hear about the support offered in Kings Heath. Breastfeeding can be a challenge for new mothers, especially if it is your first time.

You can find out more information about Breastfeeding services available in and around Birmingham at the NHS Choices website:

DrAndrewCoward Mon 04-Feb-13 11:14:33


Would you also be able to tell me whether I would be able to opt to give birth at Birmingham Women's Hospital rather than Heartlands even though I live in Solihull. BWH is preferable to me for a variety of reasons. I am not even pregnant with my second yet but I plan to be next year. I was living in Birmingham when I was pregnant with my first.

Yes, you should be able to request that you are transferred to Birmingham Womens’ Hospital by visiting your GP. From experience, the hospital does tend to get rather heavily subscribed to, so the earlier you can do this the better.

DrAndrewCoward Mon 04-Feb-13 11:15:47


WasWallis - I'm 33 weeks pregnant and was told my only options were Solihull or Heartlands (I live in Solihull) so I'd be interested in the answer to your question too as I'd rather not go to Heartlands (even though the individual midwives were lovely last time)

Which makes me think of another question for the Doctor:

I'm currently classed as a 'High Risk' pregnancy and don't understand why. I have asked but was told its due to "a number of factors" - having this label is preventing me from choosing Solihull hospital so its quite important to me that I understand why.

Factors are:

4th baby
Previous 3 were problem free labours (not even so much as a stitch needed, home after 6 hours) using gas and air. 4 hour labours at most.
Healthy babies with Apgar scores of 9 each time.
Reasonable weights - 7lb 3, 7lb 4 and 6lb 14 (but have been classified as small for dates and I'm having to have growth scans - this pregnancy my baby is following the 9th percentile same as my others)

I'm 29, healthy, maybe 7lb over weight pre pregnancy, problem free pregnancy.

I've had choliostasis in my second pregnancy, not in any of the others. It caused no problems and he was born at 40 weeks.

So I don't understand how I'm classed as high risk and get no joy out of asking my midwife. Can you shed any light?

It is vitally important that everything is explained to you fully and that you understand what is going on with your care.Therefore, my advice would be for you to go and see your GP or midwife and have a follow-up conversation about why you are classed as high risk.
From how you have described your situation to me it doesn’t seem like you are too high risk, but of course your GP/midwife will be able to give you a fuller and more detailed explanation that I cannot via this forum.

DrAndrewCoward Mon 04-Feb-13 11:17:28


Dinosaurs and was wallis....I don't think you have been given correct information. I live in birmingham and was told that the women's hospital was full when I had my booking in appointment so had to be booked at solihull and heartlands. I thought it didn't matter as I wanted a home birth again, but when I asked my community MW what would happen if I needed to be transferred to hospital during the home birth....I live closer to the women's and was concerned I would be transferred to heartlands, I was told that as I was booked at heartlands, it would be heartlands that I was transferred to. I was not happy with this (transfer to the women's would have taken 10 minutes, to heartlands 25 plus), so my community MW wrote to the supervisor of midwives at BWH and my care was transferred over.
On the day I attended for a booking in appointment they seemed to be running a special clinic for those people who were transferring care. Just write to the SOM and ask to transfer! Also I think NHS codices would mean you can choose any hospital for any appointment....

As it was I had high bp and a growth scan showed possible IUGR, so was induced at the women's the very next day. Received fantastic care on the induction ward, on the delivery suite and patchy care on post natal.

Again, as mentioned previously, Birmingham Womens’ Hospital does get booked up quickly, so you need to make sure that if this is your choice that it gets made as early as possible in your pregnancy. Talk with your GP or midwife about what options you have and what would be the best way forward for you.

DrAndrewCoward Mon 04-Feb-13 11:18:48


Hello Waswallis - another OC sufferer here. I had it in both pregnancies and have fantastic consultant led care at Birmingham Womens. Have to say the aftercare with my 5 month old was awful though and couldn't wait to get out of the place. The poor midwives seem to do a stupid amount of paperwork now I'm sure my discharge papers were 10 times the quantitiy I had with DD now 7. Midwiives should ahve their paperwork substansially cut IMHO

My question for Dr. Coward is - why can I not have my children immunised for TB? I tried to get it done and was told we did not qualify as we live in wrong part of Birmingham and do not have the right family history (family from Asia?) In my job and DPs we are constantly mixing with different communities from across the city and DD meets children from across different communites at school and during activities like Brownies and swimming. DS at only 3 months was picked up and cuddled at a party by a woman I later discovered to be recovering from TB. I have grave concerns we are unable to have our children immunised. Can you advise how we can have this done or put my mind at rest please?

The current policy in Birmingham is not to undertake universal vaccination for TB, by which we mean giving the vaccination to all children. The thinking behind this is that as with many cities in the UK, Birmingham has pockets of high TB rates in some areas and much lower rates in others; therefore it is believed that a targeted approach to vaccination in this case is the right one. Also in relation to the people who are diagnosed with TB in the city, the majority of these are people who were born outside of the UK.

TB is a serious disease but the risk of catching the TB infection is small as it generally requires prolonged and close contact with someone who has TB, such as someone living in the same house as you, or a close friend who has the disease. It can be completely cured with a long course of antibiotics.

From a health protection point of view Birmingham continues to believe that the best approach to the prevention and control of the spread of TB is to have a successful targeted approach – this includes working hard to ensure that all babies who meet the criteria for vaccination receive this at birth, that we raise awareness amongst doctors and other healthcare professionals particularly in high TB rate areas and that we also raise awareness amongst the rest of the people of Birmingham about getting medical help as soon as they can if they show any possible symptoms.

If you are still concerned, or need more information/advice on TB I would suggest talking with your GP or contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647 or

DrPatrickBrooke Mon 04-Feb-13 11:24:29


I live in Solihull by about a footstep

My doctors surgery is awful. You can ring for a same day appointment from 8.30am. You can't get through until at least 9.30am - and all the appointments are long gone by then. Or, you can queue up at the surgery - and get a same day appointment (hopefully) but have to drag yourself and your poorly child to the surgery and back twice in one day - not fun when you are heavily pregnant and don't drive.

Or to book an appointment in advance (which they don't like to do) you are looking at a two week wait, or sometimes told to call back in a weeks time to try and book an appointment for two weeks after that.

So, everytime one of my children is ill I go to the walk in service at Solihull hospital (where they are brilliant) as you will be seen pretty quickly and you don't have to pre book or mess about with waiting for hours on the phone. But, by doing this I am probably using up valuable resources and not using the service for its intended use, but I can't see an alternative. It's getting harder and harder to access basic health care in my area.

I am also under the care of a pretty awful midwife via my GP surgery. I asked about changing midwives but was told that they (the midwives) only rented a room at the surgery and she was the only one available. As antenatal care is split site I am shunted between Heartlands and Solihull hospitals who seem incapable of communicating between themselves. After having a urine test at Solihull at 12 weeks pregnant it took a further 6 weeks or so for the results (that I had a uti) to filter through, by which point I was in hospital with a kidney infection... If I ever have to phone for advice I am passed from pillar post never getting anywhere. It is so frustrating.

Although, when my third child was born (at heartlands) 18 months ago the care I received from individuals was excellent. Things beyond their control (such as waiting hours for pain relief) I can't fault them for as they are obviously stretched to the limit.

Solihull CCG is a new organisation that is committed to providing the highest quality services and patient experience so I’m very sorry to hear that you have experienced problems booking appointments at your GP practice. I can appreciate that this must be very frustrating, especially given your circumstances. I would suggest speaking or writing to the Practice Manager about your concerns so they are aware that there is a problem with booking appointments. If you find that the problem continues then please do contact me by emailing or writing to: Solihull CCG, Friars Gate, 1011 Stratford Road, Solihull, B90 4BN.

I’m glad to hear that you have had good experiences at the Walk-in centre at Solihull Hospital. I understand your concern that this service shouldn’t have to be used because of difficulties in arranging routine appointments with your GP. We are currently looking at urgent care services in Solihull and one of the areas we will be looking at is why people are accessing different urgent care services.

It’s really important that you feel confident in your midwife and I’m sorry to hear that you’re not happy with the care you are receiving at the moment and the difficulties you are experiencing around communication between Solihull Hospital and Heartlands Hospital. At Solihull CCG we are striving for consistency and the same high level of care across all the services we commission. I will ensure that we use your feedback when we look at this area with colleagues from the hospitals.

DrPatrickBrooke Mon 04-Feb-13 11:25:46


Im in Four Oaks- It has taken me 3 days to get an apt with a female gp at my local surgery ( I didn't request a female gp- I was told I had to see one as I needed some contraception advice??? Don't male GP's give out this type of advice?? thats ludicrous in itself)

So after sitting hitting redial for 3 mornings, only to be told all apts have gone- I FINALLy get a slot yesterday morning at 1030am. I arrive at 1020 and I'm still sat waiting until 1110- I only get seen at that point because I complain.

The GP then prints off a fact sheet off the internet for me. Im sure a male GP could have done this.

( I suppose that this isn't a question more of a moan!!)

I have some concern regarding mental health services in solihull. Im a MH professional and I believe that you plan to decommission Inpatient services for Solihull. How will this work? where will your acutely unwell population with MH issues go??

Together with our partners from Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council and Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust we have been reviewing the mental health services currently provided in Solihull and looking at ways they can be improved.
A consultation on the options put forward closed at the end of last year and we’re now reviewing the feedback we received from patients, carers and Solihull residents. No decision has been made about mental health inpatient services at the moment. We hope to publish the findings of the consultation in the next few weeks.
Each partner organisation will ensure the findings from the consultation are shared with staff and they will also be published on our website:

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now