Funding boost in Cheshire and Merseyside for specialist mental health services for new and expectant mums

NHS England has confirmed that new and expectant mums in Cheshire and Merseyside will be able to continue to access specialist perinatal mental health services, thanks to a funding boost, following a successful launch in late 2017.

Through collaborative working initiated by the mental health programme of the Cheshire & Merseyside Health & Care Partnership, a Cheshire Merseyside Specialist Perinatal Mental Health Service was established.

The service is delivered by three local mental health trusts – Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, North West Boroughs Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust.

During pregnancy and in the year after birth women can be affected by a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and postnatal psychotic disorders. These are collectively called perinatal mental illnesses.

Sheena Cumiskey, Chief Executive, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Senior Responsible Officer for the mental health programme of the Cheshire & Merseyside Health & Care Partnership said:

“Mental ill health doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time and it disrupts life not just for mums but the whole family, which is why we are absolutely committed to driving forward improvements in care and ensuring this important area of mental health continues to get the attention it deserves.

“The additional funding, which we have successfully bid for, will allow us to continue to deliver and build on this incredibly vital service for women across Cheshire and Merseyside.”

Specialist community perinatal mental health teams can offer psychiatric and psychological assessments and care for women with complex or severe mental health problems during the perinatal period. They can also provide pre-conception advice for women with a current or past severe mental illness who are planning a pregnancy.

Teams can be made up of doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, occupational therapists, nursery nurses and administrative staff, who all work together to provide a comprehensive service to mums, depending on what their individual needs are.

Rooted in strong partnership and collaborative working, the service is delivered across the Cheshire and Merseyside footprint. The specialist service became fully operational in November 2017, and to date have seen an additional 747 women, who would otherwise have had no service dedicated to their needs.

Dr Kieran Murphy, Medical Director, NHS England (Cheshire and Merseyside) said:

“As a GP, I have seen first-hand the affects that mental ill health can have on individuals and their families.  Having a baby should be joyful and full of excitement, but all too often it can be a time of worry and distress that can have a detrimental effect of both mum and baby’s health.

“The innovative service delivered across Cheshire and Merseyside is having an immediate impact in our communities.  This top quality service has led directly to life saving improvements in care for women and babies that will hugely reduce immediate and long term suffering.” 

One in five women will experience a mental health problem during their pregnancy and in the first year after birth, with depression and anxiety disorders being the most common. As well as being crucial to new mothers, newborns and their families, perinatal services, alongside other treatments for common mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, can play an important role in ensuring mental health is integrated into overall healthcare at the earliest possible stage of life.

Patient story

The specialist perinatal mental health service undertook an initial mental health assessment on a woman in her late 20s who was 26 weeks pregnant.  Since becoming pregnant she had been experiencing escalating feelings of anxiety and low mood.  She described herself as being “empty of all emotion” and feeling detached from her pregnancy.

The perinatal service assessed her mood, which she rated at 3/10, and identified significant bonding difficulties with her unborn baby.

The team quickly put in place a series of interventions with other professionals who were supporting her.  This included psychological therapy, liaison with the midwifery team around wellbeing and birth care plan.  They also continued to support her directly, including a review with the psychiatrist of her mental health and diagnosis 4 weeks after having her baby. The service collaborated with the hospital perinatal team midwife and arranged for further psychology sessions to help prevent relapse.

As a result of the specialist care that was put in place, the patient’s mental health and outlook improved significantly.  The patient reported that she was experiencing significant improvement in her mental health due to the care and support put in place for her. She successfully managed a difficult delivery of her baby without reports of birth trauma or her mental health worsening. The mum is being observed by clinicians to be successfully bonding with her new baby.

Should the specialist service not have been available it is highly likely that the patient could have presented on a number of occasions to hospital with concerns requiring scans and, given her mental health history and high level of anxiety, her mood is highly likely to have deteriorated after having her baby which could have led to potential risks to self and a stay in hospital.

Sheena Cumiskey added:

“The Specialist Perinatal Mental Health team is offering an incredibly valuable and, at times, lifesaving service to women in need.  We are delighted that this can continue across the whole of our region.”