An NHS England pledge of £1 million will ensure that hundreds of thousands of women will have access specialist perinatal mental health community services in Luton, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes .
In 2014 it was estimated that only three per cent of the country had good access to perinatal mental health care. Currently women who experience severe mental health difficulties during and after pregnancy are treated in mother and baby units, however in areas with limited provision new mothers can be separated from their baby whilst being treated in adult inpatient units.
Justine Cawley, Modern Matron Perinatal Services said: “Pregnancy and the postnatal period are a unique time in a woman’s life; the new services allows women to be treated in an environment that is familiar, closer to loved ones and where both their needs and the needs of the baby are me. Mothers and their infants can develop their unique bond, whilst women can get the specialist psychological help they need to recover.”
The new services will create dedicated specialist teams across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes to boost existing services and ensure better access to all women across BLMK by reducing waiting times and more specialist support to a larger group of women. Further work is taking place over the summer months to work collaboratively with partners in Primary Care to ensure the new services will support earlier diagnosis and preventative interventions. The new team will also work to increase awareness and transparency of services across BLMK.
The teams will offer a range of psychiatric and psychological assessments for complex or severe mental health problems during the perinatal period. As well as pre-conception advice for women with a current or past severe mental illness who are planning a pregnancy.
BLMK have a history of committing to co-production and involving people with lived experience shaping the future and delivery of services. For perinatal mental health there has been a collaborative of professionals and women with lived experience working together for the past two years. The women who have participated in this work have been brave in sharing their experience of care and helping to set priorities for improvement. This had led to:
- Co-produced care pathways
- Influenced the content of multiagency champions training
- Establishment of peer support groups on social media
- Learning events for GPs
- Improved pre-conception counselling to women with pre-existing mental health problems.
- Capacity to deal with crises and emergencies, and assess patients in a variety of settings.