NHS England prepare to invest in three new units for mums with mental ill health

NHS England is preparing to invest in three new inpatient units for mums with serious mental ill health to help them to stay with their babies.

The new Mother and Baby Units (MBUs) will be in East Anglia: Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk; the North West: Cumbria and Lancashire; and the South West: Cornwall, Devon and Somerset.

The services will provide in-patient support for women and their babies with the most complex and severe needs who require hospital care who are experiencing severe mental health crisis including very serious conditions like post-partum psychosis.

Provider organisations have been invited to express an interest in delivering these vital services.

Expanding capacity in mother and baby units is a key element of NHS England’s transformation programme for perinatal mental health services as part of integrated pathways of care. This covers both the creation of new units in areas with the most severe access issues, as well as reviewing capacity in existing units, with funding across the five-year period – estimated £10m in 2017/18 and £15m in 2018/19 as outlined in the Implementation Plan.

The perinatal mental health programme also supports the ambitions of the wider Maternity Transformation Programme, which seeks to deliver the vision set out in Better Births, the report of the National Maternity Review to improve maternity outcomes for women and their babies.

Dr Giles Berrisford, NHS England’s Associate Director for Perinatal Mental Health, said: “We know there is variation across the country in access to services for mums who need care for severe mental health problems. Sometimes an inpatient stay is the most appropriate treatment for a mum and mother and baby units enable women to stay with their babies at this important time, which helps achieve the best outcomes.

“These new units will help those areas we know have particular access issues and are an important part of our overall aims for transforming perinatal mental health care.”

As many as one in five women experience mental ill health during pregnancy or in the year after birth, covering a wide range of conditions including depression, anxiety or in some cases post-partum psychosis. This affects about 2 in every 1000 new mothers and suicide is the second leading cause of maternal death, after cardiovascular disease.

The cost of perinatal mental ill health to society is estimated at £8.1 billion for each annual birth cohort, or almost £10,000 per birth.

Overall, £365m has been allocated for specialist perinatal mental health services over the next five years, so that, by 2021 30,000 more women each year should be able to access care and treatment.

As a result of a bespoke analysis undertaken and advice from an expert reference group the East of England, the North West and the South West were identified with particular access issues around inpatient MBU capacity.

Last month, NHS England also launched a £5m Perinatal Community Services Development Fund to kickstart work to help close the gap in the availability of specialist, high quality community care for women with severe or complex mental health conditions.

Local systems were able to request funding for up to three years for these community services with total funding available increasing to £15m next year and £40m in 2018.

Both new sets of investment will seek to improve outcomes for women and families with a focus on integrated pathways, earlier diagnosis, intervention and recovery, and reducing avoidable harm.

Procurement for the MBU units should begin in Autumn 2016 and contracts awarded to allow work to begin by March 2017. Expressions of interest can be made on the eSourcing portal.

Notes to editors

The recent Implementation Plan for Mental<> Health set out how the finances would be allocated including funding to increase capacity in MBUs.

The Prior Information Notice issued for expressions of interest also highlights the possibility of further work in the South East Coast area. The business case for this will be reviewed within the programme and further action taken as need identified.

The community fund is not intended to include Mother and Baby Units, which are highly specialist services commissioned through NHS England’s specialised commissioning function

The closing date for receipt of submissions for the specialist perinatal MH community services development fund was 16 September. All proposals will now be reviewed by an expert panel including clinical, managerial and expert by experience representation. We hope to be able to inform successful applicants at the end of October.