As consultant obstetrician and head of obstetrics at the Royal Free Hospital, Maggie Blott plays a key role in helping patients though pregnancy and childbirth. Maggie started working in the NHS in 1983, and took up her first consultant post in 1994. In 2011 she moved to the Middle East where she worked for seven years. After moving back to London she started working for the Royal Free London, and has been with us for the past two years.
“I have always loved the NHS, and moved back to England partly because I wanted to end my career working in the NHS,” Maggie said. “Under normal circumstances, my work is very varied. I am part of a renal clinic, looking after pregnant women who have had a kidney transplant. I’m heavily involved in risk management, ensuring that we are constantly learning and improving. And I also regularly work as the consultant on call, supervising the junior doctors and overseeing what happens on our maternity wards.”
While Maggie’s time in the Middle East gave her some experience with infectious diseases such as SARS and MERS, nothing ever approached the scale or severity of COVID-19. “Women have babies whether there’s a pandemic or not. It just means that we have to adapt to new ways of doing things – such as the donning and doffing of PPE, which could cost critical seconds in an emergency. This meant that getting proper processes in place was crucial, and I’ve spent a lot of time creating new guidelines and ensuring proper training is taking place.”
The scale of the pandemic has also been one of the team’s biggest challenges. Previously, a typical month may have seen a small number of patients with infectious diseases such as flu. Now, there were four or five COVID-19 positive women at any one time. “We have been looking after a high number of extremely sick women, often with several members of our team off sick or self-isolating themselves. This has required a fundamental change in how we work.”
Despite these challenges, and the knowledge of hard work to come as the team adapts to a new normal, Maggie remains upbeat as she reflects back. “It has been fantastically inspiring to work in an environment where everyone is pulling their weight. The patient who you’ll see in the documentary was the first very sick COVID-19 positive patient that we looked after in our ward, and there was a real multi-disciplinary effort to provide her with good safe care. I’ve been very proud of how the team has pulled together.