Co-directors Dr Jonathan Evans and Ruth Jackson reflect on IMPROVE HIT's achievements in 2020-21
Over the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic, the IMPROVE HIT has played a key role in bringing together a wide range of stakeholders in the perinatal mental health system across BNSSG. In March 20, as the first lockdown began, the IMPROVE HIT facilitated monthly meetings involving colleagues from across maternity, health visiting, the specialist community perinatal mental health team, children’s services and the voluntary sector in order to get a picture of how services for perinatal mental health were managing to navigate re-deployment of staff and how services for families may be impacted. This group was able to meet regularly and worked closely with the CCG to keep the system connected, to offer a space for service providers, practitioners and professionals to connect and brought the sector together at a time that was an extremely challenging one for expectant and new parents.
In addition, the success of this work over the past year, has led to further investment being allocated by the CCG, to a longer-term piece of work proposed by IMPROVE over the coming year. This will involve undertaking a robust mapping of the perinatal mental health system across BNSSG, in order to scope what is working well in the system and why, but also to identify the gaps and barriers that exist for more marginalised parents and infants, which will then be used to inform future service development. The outcomes of this piece of work, will inform the future long-term commissioning plan for perinatal mental health and will work towards ensuring that access, delivery and impact of services is equitable for all families. This work will include the recruitment of a research fellow to undertake it, working alongside the voluntary sector and community partners to connect in a meaningful way with families with lived experience from within a diverse range of communities, as well as with professionals and statutory perinatal mental health service providers.
In response to the pandemic and the resulting reduced access to mental health care in the perinatal period, members of the HIT together with colleagues in Exeter and the US set up a website with resources for helping mental health, parenting and on COVID-19 during the perinatal period. This is currently being evaluated through a series of online questionnaires for those using the resource which is available world-wide.
Members of the HIT have also contributed to the completion of work on the benefits and harms of antidepressant use during pregnancy. The report to the HTA is just in submission.