Boost for mental health services for new and expectant mums in the Black Country

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Perinatal mental health services in the Black Country are set to benefit from more than £1.2m of national funding.

Following three perinatal community mental health pilot schemes this year, the Black Country and West Birmingham Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) has been awarded £1,253,727 as part of the Perinatal Mental Health Community Services Development Fund Wave 2 to develop these specialist services during 2018/19.

Pilot perinatal mental health liaison clinics were set up in Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley, Walsall Manor Hospital and New Cross Hospital in Wolverhampton (in addition to an existing clinic is available at City Hospital, Sandwell). The aim of the clinics has been to provide better, more timely support and treatment for pregnant women and new mums.  Depression and anxiety are two of the most common mental health problems women experience during pregnancy and the continuation of these services will improve their health and wellbeing.

Midwives can refer women with moderate to severe mental health difficulties related to preconception, pregnancy and the first post-partum year to a liaison clinic. There they receive high quality care from a consultant perinatal psychiatrist, community psychiatric nurses and local midwives who work together to provide specialist evidence-based treatment. It is anticipated that an additional 240 women will benefit from the extra funding which will enable a new Specialist Perinatal Community Mental Health Service to operate as a single service across the Black Country.

Dr Helen Hibbs, Accountable Officer at Wolverhampton CCG said: “We welcome this investment to develop and enhance existing perinatal mental health clinics and services for local women. It is important to help women in the perinatal period to feel able to talk about their mental health and get help as early as possible. Mental health issues can impact the mother, baby and the whole family. A significant number of women have already accessed and received help from the perinatal mental health service in the Black Country and West Birmingham, and as a result, they are being seen earlier, quicker and getting the right treatment when they need it.”

Dr Vanathi Kennedy from NHS Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Trust, recently completed a national bursary scheme with the Royal College of Psychiatry and Health Education England. She is now a trained Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist and able to help new mothers with their mental health and will work with the other members of the specialist team to deliver training and advice to professionals across the Black Country and West Birmingham STP footprint.

Dr Kennedy said: “I have always been interested in specialising in perinatal services and was over the moon when I was accepted on to the original bursary scheme to receive this specialist training.

“Mental health problems can be some of the most debilitating conditions because they impact on the whole person and the friends and family around them. I have enjoyed motherhood but also experienced how vulnerable a woman can be during pregnancy and following the baby’s arrival. The personal and social demands of pregnancy and looking after a new baby can mean women are more at risk, especially if they have a pre-existing mental health condition.

“I have spent the past 12 months working at the Barberry Mother and Baby Unit in Birmingham and it has been a pleasure to be able to make a difference to the lives of these women. I look forward to making a bigger impact across the Black Country.”