By Joanne Smith, Everyone’s Business Scotland Coordinator
The Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s (MMHA) Everyone’s Business campaign welcomes publication of the Scottish Government’s perinatal mental health delivery plan.
We commend the level of ambition, and ongoing commitment to strengthen and improve services across the pathway, including the third sector which has been a lifeline for many women and families, particularly during lock down.
However, while the aspiration is admirable and clear, the plan lacks detail on the intended level of specialism in each health board area. Given that the forthcoming MMHA map update is likely to show that levels of specialist provision still fall short in most parts of the country, this is disappointing.
Women and their families still currently face a tragic postcode lottery. Despite the £52million for perinatal mental health services in Scotland, many areas still have no specialist perinatal mental health services meeting national standards.
We have particular concerns that mothers in Scotland with the most severe mental health difficulties still do not have equitable access to local specialist care in comparison to England and Wales. To prevent Scotland from falling behind the rest of the UK, the Scottish Government must now ensure the committed £52m is spent in the most effective and transformative ways by health boards, taking into account both access and quality of provision.
The Plan must deliver a sustained and significant increase in the number of specialist community PIMH teams offering well-integrated support for the mothers, and for the mother-infant relationship.
In December 2019, MBRRACE-UK published their latest Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Death. Once again, the statistics made for sobering reading. Maternal suicide is still the leading cause of direct deaths occurring within a year after the end of pregnancy. Lack of local, specialist support means that problems are not being identified early, often leading to tragic consequences. In order to save precious lives, we must urgently address the gaps in perinatal mental health care.
The MMHA Everyone’s Business campaign looks forward to working closely with the Scottish Government to ensure the plan delivers sustainable, specialist services across the country to end unnecessary suffering for women and their families and escalating costs to public services.
COVID-19 and maternal mental health: our plea for a PLAN
To ensure women and their families receive the care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alliance urges national and local decision makers to PLAN with the mental as well as physical health needs of women and their families in mind.