The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) is a coalition of over 85 UK organisations with a vision to see all women across the UK get consistent, accessible and quality care and support for their mental health during pregnancy and in the year after giving birth.
New maps launched today by the MMHA’s Everyone’s Business Campaign show that pregnant women and new mums in a quarter of the UK still cannot access lifesaving specialist perinatal mental health services, which meet national guidelines.
The MMHA, of which Doula UK is a member, welcomes the encouraging signs of progress seen in some parts of the country, but it is very worrying to read that so many women and families do not have access to specialist perinatal mental health services.
The maps show that whilst many more women now live in an area coloured green on the map (where services are available), 24% of women live in an area coloured red – meaning they have no such access.
Since the last campaign maps in 2015, there have been improvements in services available to women and their families. NHS England has used new Government money to develop specialist services, and an announcement of the successful areas which will benefit from wave two of their community development fund is expected shortly and will lead to even more green on the map in England. In Wales, the Welsh Government has given money to local health boards who have rapidly improved services. In Scotland and Northern Ireland no prioritised funding for specialist community services has been made available to date.
More than ten percent of women develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby. Women suffering with severe perinatal illnesses need to be able to access vital specialist services wherever they live. Lack of adequate care leads to devastating outcomes for women and their families – including suicide, which is a leading cause of death for women during pregnancy and in the perinatal year. Women and babies who need specialist community perinatal care must have access to a team consisting of specially trained staff including psychiatrists, mental health nurses, psychologists, social workers, midwives and health visitors. Inpatient mother and baby units where mum and baby are cared for together are essential when a hospital admission is required.
Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, said: “Over ten years ago national guidelines said that specialist perinatal mental health services should be available for all women who need them. This still hasn’t happened. We want to celebrate the new perinatal services that have been set up, but these maps show that there is still an urgent need for change on the ground. For women and families to be able to access specialist services, we need to see funding across all four nations of the UK. The job is not yet done. Women and families across the UK need this map to turn green.”
Specialist perinatal mental health services save lives; they provide specialist treatment and can also act as a catalyst for change across the whole pathway, providing expertise and delivering training to a range of health and social care professionals including GPs, health visitors and midwives.
The Everyone’s Business Campaign is calling for all areas of need to receive the necessary funding, so that the postcode lottery which affects so many can be resolved. The UK map as well as maps for England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland can be downloaded from the MMHA website. You can support the campaign by following @MMHAlliance and the hashtag #everyonesbusiness.
Doula UK advocates for continuity of care and personalised support through pregnancy, childbirth and the early years of parenting, and we strongly support the Everyone’s Business campaign, which calls for all areas of need to receive the necessary funding to end this postcode lottery.
We provide links to other organisations and services which support women and families here.
About the maps
The maps were created from data collected by the Royal College of Psychiatrists in 2017, via self-assessment. Each area was rated using criteria from the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ CCQI Standards (http://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/pdf/Perinatal%20Comunity%20Standards%20Cycle%203.pdf). Visit our website for a description of what each colour on the map means.
Data from the new maps
Accessibility of specialist perinatal mental health services, rated green on the map, varies widely across the 4 nations:
- In England 51% of areas are green (106 areas)
- In Wales 28% of areas are green (2 areas)
- In Northern Ireland 0 areas are green
- In Scotland 7% of areas are green (1 area)
If you have a query about your colour on the map please email firstname.lastname@example.org