NHS chiefs from across Luton, Bedfordshire and Milton Keynes have beaten competition to get £1.2million from the government to develop a mental health service for new mums.
Work is already underway on planning new services for Bedfordshire and Luton, and enhancing one that is already running in Milton Keynes but has been “under resourced”.
It has been estimated that some 650 new mums every year, five per cent of the total, may need some support from a perinatal mental health service across MK, Beds, and Luton.
Some 900 women have been asked about their experiences of the health service during pregnancy, not just in mental health, and this highlighted a “lack of continuity that professionals were not communicating with each other or reading notes before speaking with them.”
Among the anonymous comments made, one critical care nurse said: “The treatment I received was shocking. I’m a critical care nurse and I would never treat my patients the way I was treated.
“I was diagnosed with PTSD after my experience of childbirth and will never have another one again after my experience.”
Another said: “I was diagnosed with depression at a children’s centre and that was it. I never went back as I felt stupid. No one followed this up. Two years on I still have dark days.”
A meeting of the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee will today (Tuesday) be told that women who need to access additional support during pregnancy, labour, birth, and post birth have not been receiving quality perinatal mental health services.
The commissioning bodies that pay for health services across Bedfordshire, Luton, and Milton Keynes (BLMK) agree that the provision of a new perinatal mental health service is an “absolute priority”.
Health officials will tell the committee, being hosted by Milton Keynes Council that before the start of the new service “Bedfordshire and Luton did not have a specialist perinatal mental health service.
“There was a service in Milton Keynes, but it was under resourced and did not fully meet national guidance or local needs. It consisted of a limited psychologist and consultant psychiatrist and nurse – which cost £172,100 a year.”
The cash injection means establishing new teams in Bedfordshire and Luton, and building on the small existing service in MK.
“This bid was successful as a result of the close collaboration across Bedfordshire, Luton and Milton Keynes – other areas that did not benefit from similar collaborative working were unsuccessful,” the committee will be told.
The new and enhanced services will deliver assessment and treatment for women with serious mental illness in the perinatal period (during pregnancy and up to a full year following birth).
The Bedfordshire and Luton team will work from a central hub and reach into local hospitals and services to ensure that women and families have equal access wherever they live.
The Milton Keynes team will continue to be based in MK, but teams will work closely together so that women have equal access to care. They will also work with hospitals and health and social care teams to “jointly support women and their families through what can be a very difficult time.”
They will have access to doctors, nurses, psychology, occupational therapy and nursery nurses.
The Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee is being asked to note the update from the Local Maternity Services Programme and provide any recommendations.