A new perinatal service that will provide vulnerable women in East Anglia with targeted help for complex mental health problems is on course to launch early in the new year, a trust has said.
Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust and local clinical commissioning groups were recently awarded nearly £2.5m by NHS England to work on developing the specialist community service.
“Our aim will be to receive referrals at an early stage in pregnancy”
It will care for pregnant women and new mothers with serious mental health difficulties, as well as providing support for the rest of the family and training for other healthcare professionals.
The service, which has received funding for the next three years, will cater for people with conditions such as severe post-natal depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis.
It will also offer pre-conception advice for woman on medication for their mental health or with a known mental illness wishing to conceive.
It will aim to reach women as quickly as possible, providing timely support which is specially-tailored to meet each patient’s individual needs, including talking therapies and medication, as well as support engaging with antenatal care and health visitors.
The trust said work had now started to recruit consultant psychiatrists to lead the service, as well as mental health nurses, nursery nurses and other therapy and social care staff, who will complete the 14-strong team.
“The NHS is taking concrete action to get these mothers the specialist mental health support they need”
It is hoped all posts will be filled by March, said the trust. The new service will replace the current system in which women experiencing difficulties receive care from midwives, health visitors and secondary mental health services and Wellbeing Norfolk and Waveney.
Andy Goff, improvement and development manager at the trust, said it was “great news” there would be a specific service for women and their babies, given than it was “such a specialist area of work”.
“Our aim will be to receive referrals at an early stage in pregnancy, as evidence shows that existing mental health problems can get worse just before or after birth,” he said. “The same applies for new mothers suffering with post-natal depression – we want to reach them as quickly as possible so that they can get the specialist help they need.
“We are now working hard to recruit new staff while also raising awareness of the service so that people know where to turn when they need help,” he said.
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He added that his organisation had also been working closely with Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust, which already runs a perinatal service, to plan the training of its staff.
The service will be delivered in partnership with maternity services at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and James Paget Hospital, as well as Cambridgeshire Community Trust, which provides health visiting services and nursery nurses.
It has been commissioned by Norfolk and Waveney’s five clinical commissioning groups and developed in partnership with Get Me Out The Four Walls, a support group set up to help women with post-natal depression.
NHS England chief Executive Simon Stevens also commented on the new service, in the wake of recent national commitments on perinatal healthcare provision, including the overall funding pot that helped pay for the Norfolk and Waveney scheme.
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He said: “For most parents, having a baby is one of the happiest times of your life. But for tens of thousands of new mums, this experience is sadly overshadowed by severe pregnancy-related mental health problems.
“Now the NHS is taking concrete action to get these mothers and families the specialist mental health support they need,” he added.