New mothers will benefit from additional mental health support as Cornwall and Isles of Scilly have been chosen as 1 of 10 pilot sites in the UK to receive NHS England and NHS improvement investment, for the development and testing of maternal mental health services.
The announcement was made after a collaborative bid across the local maternity system led by Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust (RCHT) and Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CFT).
As a pilot site, the perinatal mental health team in Cornwall will lead the way in partnership with RCHT’s integrated women requiring extra nurturing team (WREN), in achieving the ambitions for maternal mental health laid out in the NHS long term plan.
The investment awarded will enable the team to strengthen their services and help more women experiencing moderate to complex mental health difficulties arising from, or related to the maternity experience. As a pilot site, development and learning from their cases will be followed closely to support a full roll out of perinatal mental health services across the UK by 2023/24.
Mandy Raywood is a specialist perinatal mental health service manager at CFT. Her team works with women who develop mental illness in the perinatal period and integrates maternity, reproductive health, and psychological teams, offering consultation, therapy and targeted interventions.
Mandy is excited to see the difference becoming a pilot site will make to services already established.
“1 in 4 women experience mental health problems in pregnancy and during the 24 months after giving birth. The consequences of not accessing high quality perinatal mental health care in the early stages of pregnancy can result in extremely serious problems that have a huge impact on women, their babies and their families.
“We already have teams working together to support vulnerable women in the county, but we know there are some women we don’t have the resources to get to.
"As a pilot site we will be able to strengthen our workforce and track the efficiency of treatment plans. Ultimately this will create a better maternal mental health offering for women in Cornwall as well as the rest of the country.”
Mandy’s team has helped people like 36 year old Claire, whose children are now 3 and 4 years old. Claire was referred to the team having had a traumatic birth experience with her first child which led to an ongoing disability. She was overwhelmed with the responsibility of having a new baby, not only because of the practicalities of her physical injuries, but the impact of her own difficult childhood was being triggered by becoming a mother herself. Added to which, shortly after her first baby was born, she found out she was pregnant with her second. The shock of the situation she found herself in led her to feel unable to cope and she was suicidal. Claire says the team saved her.
“I was in a very dark place and was struggling to bond with my baby. The perinatal mental health team (which is part of Cornwall’s maternal mental health service) were able to suggest and provide specialist services to wrap around me in a personalised care plan. This helped to make me feel less of a failure and gave me the confidence to parent my children and to start the process of reducing the self-doubt.”
Claire was supported by a psychiatrist, occupational therapist and a psychologist, she said, “I have a great bond with my children now, we are a happy family and I know I am a good mum. That is all thanks to the team.”