Half of NHS boards lack specialist perinatal mental health care

19 April 2018, 07:13

pregnant

Half of Scotland's health boards have no specialist mental health care services for pregnant women and new mothers, according to new research.

Data from 2017 analysed by the Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) shows that in seven out of 14 health board areas women had no access to specialist perinatal mental health services.

Only NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had services that met national guidelines drawn up by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

MMHA warned that women were facing a postcode lottery in accessing lifesaving care, highlighting more than one in 10 develop a mental illness during pregnancy or within the first year after having a baby.

The organisation has called for more funding, pointing out that no prioritised money for specialist perinatal community services had been made available by the Scottish Government to date.

MMHA chair Dr Alain Gregoire 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."

Emma Currer, from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Scotland, said: "Ensuring Scotland has the perinatal mental health services it needs is hugely important. If women do not get the support needed the consequences can be incredibly serious, indeed, fatal.

"As the map for Scotland shows the Scottish Government and NHS still have much to do to improve the situation around perinatal mental health because there are clearly significant gaps in services.

"From these figures we are certainly lagging behind England and Wales in making improvements and this needs addressing.

"There is, though, work going on behind the scenes to look at what services Scotland has and where there are gaps.

"I hope this will bear fruit so that we can plug those gaps and give women the help, support and care they need and deserve."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Good perinatal mental health care is vitally important in improving outcomes for mothers and their young children. This is why we have funded a national Managed Clinical Network (MCN) on perinatal mental health.

"The MCN brings together specialists on perinatal mental health, nursing, maternity, and infant mental health, and is designed to improve the recognition and treatment of perinatal mental health care.

"The Network is currently delivering on its workplan, which includes assessing current provision across all levels of service delivery in Scotland.

"Our aim is that all women, their infants, and families, have equity of access to the perinatal mental health services they need across all of Scotland."