Yesterday the Department of Health launched a report on safer maternity care ‘Safer Maternity Care: Next steps towards the national maternity ambition’: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/safer-maternity-care
Dr Alain Gregoire, Chair of the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, has made the following response:
We welcome the announcement by the Secretary of State of a Safer Maternity Care action plan and the inclusion of improvements in perinatal mental health care in this. Mental illnesses are the most common serious health complications of pregnancy and the postnatal period, and a major cause of maternal death. There has been no sign of improvement in the effects of these illnesses on mothers and their babies in the past decades, despite significant improvements in physical health outcomes.
Although all women throughout England receive specialist maternity care for their physical health, women in most areas do not have access to specialist health care for their mental health. The government’s commitment to improvements in maternity care, including mental health as well as physical health, is a step towards redressing this imbalance and towards safer care for all women and their babies.
We now look forward to seeing implementation of this plan, including mental health, across training and clinical practice in all maternity services. This should include implementing previous government commitments to specialist mental health midwives in every maternity service.
Dr Gregoire has made the following suggestions about how mental health could be embedded into the key themes and recommendations in the report:
Leadership: Strong leadership for maternity systems must include leadership on mental health. New safety champions should see mental health as part of their role and Government must continue to push for specialist mental health professionals in every area of the country, including specialist perinatal mental health teams and specialist mental health midwives.
Learning and best practice: Mental health must be a core component in all publications, resources and training to improve maternity safety. All members of the maternity workforce should be confident in detecting perinatal mental health problems and knowing what to do to ensure women get the support they need.
Focus on teams: Effective multi-professional team working includes the integration of mental health and maternity services.
Data: Maternity data sets used for benchmarking and quality assurance must include measures of the incidence, detection and treatment of perinatal mental illness and outcomes for mothers effected.
Innovation: The UK has world leading services for perinatal mental health, but there is still space for more innovation and for sharing good practice to all areas. Involving women with lived experience of perinatal mental illness and their families is an important and valuable aspect of service development.
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