Guest blog by Everyone’s Business Wales coordinator, Dr Sarah Witcombe-Hayes
The Senedd elections took place on the 6th May, and Welsh Labour are back leading Welsh Government, having won half (30) of the Welsh Parliament’s 60 seats.
The Conservatives won 16 seats and had their best Senedd election to date, Plaid Cymru won 13, and Liberal Democrats won a single seat. Meaning that we have a four-party Welsh Parliament.
Mark Drakeford has been re-nominated as first Minister and he did a cabinet reshuffle which resulted in Eluned Morgan becoming Minister for Health and Social Services and Lynne Neagle being appointed as Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing.
In the lead up to the election, we saw pledges to improve perinatal mental health (PMH) feature in some party manifestos, including a commitment within the Conservative Party Manifesto to create a mother and baby unit in North Wales, and Plaid Cymru to extend and standardise access to PMH services across Wales, including a mother and baby unit in North Wales.
PMH Progress in Wales
During the last Senedd term, providing and improving PMH care in Wales was a key Welsh Government priority. This led to some important developments in the maternal mental health support available to families in Wales, including:
- The opening of an interim mother and baby unit (Uned Gobaith) in South Wales
- A small improvement in specialist services available to women and their families
- The increased investment in recurrent annual funding for perinatal mental health community services (currently at around £3 million).
Yet despite these encouraging signs of progress, the commitment from the previous Welsh Government to improve access and quality of perinatal mental health services has quite simply not been enough. Gaps remain in vital services, meaning many women and families are not receiving the support they need.
In the wake of growing concerns about the increased challenges that the pandemic has posed for women’s mental health during pregnancy and after birth, it is crucial that urgent measures are taken in Wales to bridge these gaps and ensure that all women and their families can get consistent, accessible and quality perinatal mental health care.
Campaign focus in Wales
The Everyone’s Business campaign in Wales remains focused on pushing for high-quality PMH services in each health board in Wales and for there to be accessible inpatient support available for women experiencing the most severe PMH problems.
We are calling on the new Welsh Government to:
- Sufficiently resource all health boards to have accessible specialist PMH services that meet national quality standards
- Establish a permanent mother and baby unit (MBU) in Wales, and have a clear and accessible MBU option for women in North Wales
- Provide training in PMH care for all professionals involved in the care of women during pregnancy and the first year after birth.
The 2021 Senedd election returned 20 new MSs (Member of the Senedd), which is a third of new sitting members.
We are busy writing to all MS’s to congratulate them on being elected, and establishing new members areas of interest. In due course, we hope to meet with new members and the new Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing, to talk about the key priorities for the Everyone’s Business campaign in Wales.
The election gives the Everyone’s Business campaign a really exciting opportunity to build new relationships with elected candidates and to work with the Welsh Government to ensure that high-quality perinatal mental health support is available to all women across Wales.