Delivering care in a complex landscape

The Maternal Mental Health Alliance (MMHA) released the first map of UK specialist perinatal mental health (PMH) community services in 2015. Since then, much has changed.

There has been fantastic progress in levels of specialist PMH service provision arcross the UK, but families face a grave risk of diversion of resources to other areas of healthcare. Additional commitment and investment are still essential. PMH still does not receive anywhere near the same level of attention or investment as physical health.

But... there is a real story of hope and potential here. With high-quality care and support, women and birthing people experiencing PMH problems do recover and have good outcomes for them, their babies and families.

The impact of Covid-19 on maternal mental health

We know that the effects of Coronavirus are ongoing. MMHA commissioned research showed the pandemic has increased levels of need for women, babies and families, and particularly impacted women of colour and families experiencing poverty. There continue to be unprecedented pressures on the health services and voluntary community sector delivering care, and many staff teams are depleted.

Discover the research

Growing inequalities

Research has demonstrated more clearly than ever that outcomes are not the same for all women and birthing people, and their families. There are disparities for mothers from Black and minority ethnic communities, young parents and those facing additional adversities such as domestic abuse. This requires services and systems to think about barriers to care and how they can ensure the needs of ALL women and their families are met.

In addition to these socio-economic disparities, there are also differences in how each nation is trying to progress delivering specialist PMH care.

Different nations, different standards

UK-wide quality standards created by the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Perinatal Quality Network set the standard for what services should deliver. In England, specialist PMH teams are now working beyond these quality standards as they try to deliver on NHS England’s Long Term Plan ambitions. And in Scotland, PMH Network Scotland have made recommendations for models and levels of care in rural and remote areas, which are different to the Perinatal Quality Network standards.

Mapping specialist community teams

In MMHA's latest community PMH services maping, we have tried to reflect some of these complexities and provide a snapshot across the UK at this time. We document the UK data and then examine in more detail the specific context for each nation. This briefing recognises the commitment and plans that have been made nationally and locally and celebrates the progress that has been made.

See the full 2023 briefing

Nevertheless, while there are differences between the nations, we believe that women with more severe and complex mental health problems, their babies and families face needs and risks that vary little across the nations and that their right to equitable levels of high-quality care must be upheld, however that is delivered.

My journey would have been so much better if I’d had access to specialist perinatal care and a Mother and Baby Unit. My treatment was completely derailed by my separation from my son.

Alex, Expert by experience

A note to parents

We hope that these maps will demonstrate to new and expectant parents that progress is being made and we encourage them to reach out to a health professional if they are concerned about their mental health. The MMHA remains committed to ensuring all women and birthing people impacted by PMH problems have access to high-quality compassionate care and support.

Support for families