Just in time to celebrate our work!

A week before the Corona virus starting keeping us all apart, we brought almost a hundred women and girls together!  Each year we have a big celebration of our work, the women and girls who attend all of our projects come along, we invite funders and other professionals that we work alongside from across the city.  It’s always an emotional, inspirational and fun event, and this year was no different.



The event took place at the Leeds City Museum who were kind enough to host us.  There was a big display of bunting that the women from each of our groups had been working on in their sessions.  We started off hearing from Rachel our Chief Exec with a bit of an overview of our year.  She told everyone about the projects that were coming to an end, but also about exciting new pieces of work like Your Space, our partnership project with Touchstone and Holbeck Together.  We than had a fantastic performance from incredible Leeds poet Khadijah Ibrahim who inspired and entertained us all.


Next Lucy introduced the video Breathing Space have made which shows women from the group giving tips to professionals on how to support people who have experienced trauma, which included being aware of triggers, not judging and thinking about eye contact.  One of the things people always tell us they love about our celebrations is hearing Rainbow Hearts sing, this was next up and as usual, it was incredible.  During the performance Sally read out messages from some of the women about what coming to Rainbow Hearts has meant to them.





Sarah followed this with an introduction to the animations that some girls and young women from The Key have worked on with Children & Families Services.  The young women were asked what it was like growing up as a girl in Leeds and they talked about whatever was important to them.  We watched the animations on healthy relationships, mental health and abuse.



Finally, and most importantly, we heard from women and girls from across our projects about their stories and what coming to their group has meant to them.  There are always some tears around the room during this part of our celebration, but a lot of uplifting messages too, and it often means a lot to the women and girls to have their voices heard.

“Coming to these groups helped me come to terms with what had happened in my past wasn’t my fault. Being around women who were like me helped build my confidence and self-esteem.”

“My mental health has improved a lot…I feel a lot safer and a lot less lonely. I don’t make friends at my group, I make family and it just keeps growing.”

“Today I stand alone this strong because I am no longer a victim, but a survivor. I survived what I went through to live & protect my children, that along takes strength & courage like no other. I’m at the stage in my journey where I realise I will never fully recover from what I went through, because sustained trauma affects every aspect of a person’s life, whether it be living with the aftermath with Social Care, or battling through depression & suicidal thoughts. But I can and I will heal because of the determination I have in me to show my children it’s never ok to be alone and fighting silent battles.”

“Group has made my confidence grow and improved my mental health. I have overcome most of my fears and I can now see a change in myself, so thank you for helping me be a better persona & believe in myself when no-one else did.”

“I came into this project feeling desperate for somebody to speak to & listen to me, not just judge me for being a ‘stroppy teenager’. (Workers) made me the woman I am today and I am grateful for that, so thank you.”




At this point, we all needed a little break, so it was time for lunch and for the relaxing part of the day to begin!  We had a couple of henna designers, a fantastic photo booth from Getaway Girls that was VERY popular and creative types could have a go at making memory boxes with The Key’s Moving on Group and paint a section of a community canvas with Amareen from Your Space.  We were so very thankful to the staff and students from Leeds City College’s hair and beauty department, who offered hand massages, braiding and ‘hair up’ styling for anyone who fancied a bit of pampering.  Finally, after having some gorgeous cake baked by our very own Bridget, it was time to head home.

The celebration is always a highlight of our year – looking around the room at such incredible women and girls, seeing them face their fears and tell their stories, then being able to just spend some time enjoying themselves together.  Massive thanks to everyone who made the event happen, particularly Ranstad for the crèche, Leeds City Museum for the venue and Leeds City College for the pampering.  Lastly, as always thanks to the girls and women from our projects who came along, opened up and showed what Women’s Health Matters is all about – women supporting women.  Same time next year?


Update from the Maternity Voices Partnership

We’ve had a busy time over the last 3 months at the Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP).

On January 13th 2020 the Clinical Commission Group (CCG) launched its Maternity and Neonatal Public Consultation.  The MVP parent representatives supported with engagement events across the city and promoted the survey to families.  The survey is for gaining feedback on families general experience on maternity services, to get opinions on the proposals to centralise all maternity services to the LGI and also to consult on the way hospital antenatal appointments are provided.  The aim of the consultation is to work out what future services should look like including a new midwifery led unit at LGI.  You can complete the survey here until 5th April 2020.

Engagement Lead Caroline Mackay said ‘Thank you for everyone’s commitment to the engagement and dedication to making service in Leeds the best they can be’.  This picture was taken at the final event with Julian Hartley; Chief Executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals.

In January MVP promoted and attended the ‘Whose Shoes’ workshop with Sally Goodwin Mills at Public Health as they delivered a fantastic infant feeding workshop.  The morning saw a mix of professionals and parents taking part in this fun board game which is designed to help professionals and service users listen to each other by answering different scenarios about support around different topics, this one was infant feeding.  It was really helpful for putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and sharing your own experiences at the same time. As the event finished, we all pledged to help make information on breast feeding support accessible and consistent.  Sally is a regular attendee at our MVP formal meetings, and updates us on developments in this area, especially around breast feeding support information on postnatal wards.

We have also been supporting the NEST ambassadors around perinatal mental health, especially for dads and co-parents.  We’ve been successful in completing 9 face to face surveys, including at the Preparation Birth and Beyond antenatal course which take place in the community.  This was a good chance to also get dads views on the support they receive for their own mental health, as well as supporting their partner.

The Trust is soon to be going digital, so all your hand held notes are getting changed to Maternity Online Notes. The digital online survey about this is currently underway, we at the MVP felt it was also important to get face to face feedback to find out how many women use their notes.  We spoke to women in the community and out of 48 women this was the response:

How often do you check your notes?
After your scan and hospital appointment 27%
Before or after each appointment 38%
Every Day 2%
Never 23%
Once a Month 2%
Once a Week 8%

Any Parenting Apps
Yes 65%
No 35%

Under 20 4%
21-30 40%
31-40 50%
Over 40 6%

Do you prefer Paper/Electronic/both
Paper 44%
Electronic 27%
Both 25%

In other news, after three years of being chair for the MVP, our wonderful Lucy Potter has handed over the reins of the chair duties of the MVP to Aneira, another member of the WHM team.  Lucy helped transition the (old) Maternity Service Liaison Committee (MSLC) to the new MVP in March 2018.  Lucy also worked with midwives to set up ‘Walking the Patch’, where each month a small team of parent representatives visit women and families at both hospital sites, and then feed back any issues the families may have to the team leader meeting.  During a recent Walking the Patch session we spoke to 10 families on the postnatal ward at St. James’s.  Most were very happy with their continuity of care when having an elective C-section.  This is a service previously operated from a smaller space, but it’s now in a welcoming, spacious environment.  This development has been led by Maternity Support Workers Margaret Bingham and Deborah Hampson with the goal of providing a comfortable area and the opportunity for families to meet each other before, during and after their operation.  After the feedback from the team leaders Lucy received a lovely bunch of flowers from all of the midwives to say goodbye and cake was served up.

Lucy wishes Aneira every success in being chair for the MVP and would like to thank all the parent reps who have supported the MVP over the years. Here at WHM, we’d like to thank Lucy for her dedication and passion for this project, you’ve made a huge difference to families in the city!

From left to right: Claire and Melissa Licence, Nicky Collins, Julia Kitching, Lucy Potter Sarah Joyce and Aneira Thomas.



Maternity Voices Partnership update.

The Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) bring together parents with experience of maternity services with staff representatives at the Leeds Teaching Hospital NHS Trust.  We regularly give feedback to help shape and co-design the maternity services offered to families in Leeds.

The MVP were part of Baby Week (2-9th November 2019). Over the past few months and within Baby Week our volunteers have been going into the maternity wards and talking to families to get feedback on their experiences of maternity services. Below is a picture of us with the Team Leader midwives after reporting back from a morning on the Antenatal ward at LGI. The response has been positive and a more thorough evaluation has been carried out following feedback from our maternity survey which can be found on our website; http://www.smartsurvey.co.uk/s/OKBAV/ .



Through this we created a ‘you said we did’ breakdown of different areas you thought needed improvement. For instance ‘you said’ you felt your partner/father needed to be included more in the pregnancy – we can report that all birth partners are now allowed to stay over in the antenatal ward. ‘You said’ you wanted information to be easier to understand – we can report that the Trust now have a nominated member of staff with ‘I’m here to listen’ as a point of reference for women and families to go for any issues or concerns in each area.

The formal MVP has provided space for professionals and service users to meet and discuss important engagement in how to support fathers and birth partners in their role for breastfeeding support. The Trust has employed two Infant Feeding Coordinators who provide support covering both sites to help support women with breastfeeding.

The MVP took part in the ALWAYS event run by the Trust and the Patient Experience Team and through an engagement exercise they provided two vision statements:

  • I always expect to be offered the opportunity to have skin to skin contact with my baby for as long as I want
  • I always expect to receive consistent information about skin to skin contact with my baby

If you would like to know more about what the MVP does, visit our website or contact info@womenshealthmatters.org.uk if you would like to join and become a parent representative.

MVP goes to EXPO!

We recently went to an exciting event in Manchester – the NHS EXPO.  Our Lucy Potter, Chair of the Maternity Voices Partnership (MVP) went along to present with her colleagues and alongside Karen Poole and Annemarie Henshaw, on ‘How to succeed at system level planning’.

Lucy (on the left in the photo) was, as always, representing the voices of those people who access the Local Maternity System (LMS) in West Yorkshire and Harrogate. It was a chance to make clear how important the MVP is as a way of hearing from those who access maternity services in our area and how it helps improve maternity care for all.  Lucy showed how the 7 MVPs have helped families not only have an input, but their experiences have helped shape the services and maternity experiences of women and other families in the region. Fantastic work Lucy!