Dr Jonathan Evans and Inge Shepherd, Directors of the Improving Perinatal Mental Health Health Integration Team (IMPROVE HIT), give an update on progress in 2016-17.
This year we successfully supported an application for funding with Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group for £1.3 million over three years. This will build on their initial investment to develop a new specialist community perinatal mental health service (SCPMS) for the area. This new service will ensure those women with the most serious mental health needs will get fast access to specialist care. The new team is run by Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP), and led by Leanne Hayward, a consultant psychiatrist.
As the new specialist team will initially focus on women who are at highest risk of mental health issues, we have begun to look at the pathways in place for women experiencing less severe common mental health issues, in particular depression and anxiety. Together with colleagues from Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group, clinicians, the voluntary sector and service providers we are mapping the services in place to identify gaps that we can target.
We continue to work on the education of professionals and the public through our teaching and training work-stream, which we are expanding to include the work of the new perinatal mental health service. The new service includes a dedicated expert team to deliver training and support for professionals working with women during the perinatal period. This is an opportunity to skill up the clinical workforce in this important area.
Our work to increase women’s engagement with Children’s Centres has continued. With the centres, we are running a system to register all women during their pregnancy. We are working with local film-making students to produce DVDs to publicise the importance of Children’s Centres.
Patient and public involvement remains an important theme for the IMPROVE HIT. We work closely with local charities supporting families affected by perinatal depression including Bluebell, Mothers for Mothers and Rockabye. These collaborations support all our work. We are now building collaboration with advocates for promoting fathers’ mental health during the perinatal period.
Two research grants and one fellowship in perinatal mental health have been awarded in the last year with the help of the HIT. One of the grants is to study the effect of antidepressant use during pregnancy. The other is to examine prenatal stress and child outcomes and involves an international collaboration of four different cohorts. The fellowship is to study father infant interactions in the context of maternal depression.