New and expectant mothers in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire will now have access to specialist mental health support, thanks to new funding from NHS England. The successful funding bid, which was led by members of the Improving Perinatal Mental Health (IMPROVE) Health Integration Team, is worth £1.3 million over three years. It will lead to a new perinatal mental health service, that will ensure those women with the most serious mental health needs will get fast access to specialist care.
The IMPROVE team was able to bring together the key stakeholders including commissioning, service providers and community organisations to agree priorities for the bid. They already had the support structure in place to enable them to make, and win, the bid. Members of IMPROVE were also able to provide the evidence base to make a strong case.
Around 3,000 women a year in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire, have concerns about their emotional wellbeing either during pregnancy or shortly after their baby is born. As many as 400 of those women will experience serious mental health problems.
Run by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP), the new specialist team, which will include a consultant psychiatrist, clinical psychologist and specialist practitioners, will ensure healthcare professionals are better equipped to identify women who have, or are at risk of developing mental health problems.
This will mean women and their families can get consistent, reliable information and practical support, as soon as they need it.
This new service will build on investment already made by NHS Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group to deliver a new specialist service which began in November.
"We are delighted that the partnership working we’ve developed through the Improving Perinatal Mental Health HIT is bearing such fruit. The HIT was instrumental in bring together key partners to support the business case for a specialist community team. It enabled us to build relationships and develop our vision, which included hearing the voices of women with lived experience and their partners.“Improving the mental health of mothers and fathers during pregnancy and in the first postnatal year is a health priority, not only because it's important for parents but it's crucial for the health and wellbeing of the next generation. Despite being the focus of a NICE guideline and many reports, progress to improve the mental health and wider emotional well-being of parents has been slower than we would like, despite some excellent local initiatives. We believe this service is going to make a real difference to parents and children, at what can be a very difficult time in their lives.”
Speaking on behalf of NHS Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset Clinical Commissioning Groups, Dr Kirsty Alexander, clinical lead for maternity services, said:
“As many as 400 women in this area every year will experience serious mental health problems during or after their pregnancy. The impact can be very serious, not just for the woman and her family, but for the long-term emotional health of her baby.
“This new funding means we can expand the highly skilled, specialist care already set up for Bristol – across the whole area. We are delighted to have been chosen by NHS England as one of the first places to receive this funding.
“As the service evolves, we will be able to share our experience and expertise for the benefit of pregnant women and new mums not only in our area, but across the country.”
Paul Townsend, managing director for AWP’s specialised services, added:
“This is a fantastic investment in making mental health support and treatment more accessible to new and expectant mothers and we are delighted to be partners in delivering this service.”
The perinatal mental health team will work in partnership with maternity services, adult mental health, GPs, health visitors and other professionals as well as community organisations such as Bluebell Care and Mothers for Mothers.
This wide involvement will also be key to reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues during and after pregnancy.
This investment is part of a wider NHS England investment to provide more support for pregnant women and new mums suffering mental illness as well as to improve care for the many people with mental health problems attending A&E in crisis.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England announced at the Mind conference on Tuesday 29 November that £40m was to be allocated to 20 areas of the country to fund new specialist community mental health services for mums in the immediate run up to and after birth, and help reach 30,000 more women a year by 2021. A further £20m will be allocated next year.
For more information go to NHS England.