Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has officially launched a new specialist service which offers targeted help to pregnant women and new mums with serious mental health difficulties.
The Community Perinatal Mental Health Service provides specialist care to women from across Norfolk and Waveney with conditions such as severe post-natal depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis.
It has been launched after NHS England awarded the Trust £2.5m to develop the service over the next three years.
Several key staff were recruited in April, which means around 80 service users have already been able to receive treatment as a result. Further appointments have now taken the team up to 14, while work to recruit to the final two posts – additional admin support and a nursey nurse – is now taking place.
Staff officially launched the service on Friday, by first meeting Norman Lamb, MP for North Norfolk, to explain more about the care they provide, before holding a special event for around 65 colleagues from health, local government and social care.
Its aim was to help stakeholders understand the support the service offers as well as the type of referrals it can receive, which includes pregnant women and new mothers with serious mental health difficulties and those with a known mental illness who wish to conceive.
The service will also provide support for the wider family and education for other professionals involved in the care of pregnant and post-partum women, such as GPs, midwives and health visitors, so that they can identify those at risk at an early stage.
Susan Stolworthy, Clinical Team Leader with the service, said: “The official launch of this service is great news. It means we will be able to provide the very specialist care which these women need to go on and enjoy a healthy, happy life with their new baby.
“We want to be able to offer help as early as possible, so have carefully designed the service and the referral process to minimise potential delays so that people can receive the right help to meet their needs.
“It has been developed in partnership with colleagues from across the NHS, service users and the support group Get Me Out The Four Walls. We are now setting up a specific group to make it easier for women to feedback their views about the care they receive so that we can make further improvements in the future while ensuring that the service truly meets their needs.
“We are also looking at ways we can increase the support we offer to dads, as they can play a huge role in supporting their partner and helping them to stay well.”
The service has been developed in partnership with maternity services at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Queen Elizabeth Hospital and James Paget Hospital, as well as Cambridgeshire Community Trust, which provides health visiting services and nursery nurses.
Naomi Farrow, who set up Get Me Out The Four Walls after suffering from post-natal depression, has also worked closely with NSFT throughout and sat on interview panels when staff have been recruited.
She said: “It is great news that Norfolk has developed this specialist team and something that has been needed in the county for a long time. This is a huge positive for mothers in the region.
“Whilst this service is specifically aimed at mothers who have severe perinatal mental health needs, we cannot forget that prevention is just as important. Prevention is an area in which GMOTFW works predominantly and, in collaboration with the Trust, we will be working together to plug as many possible gaps within services to ensure that no mothers fall between the gaps.
“Both myself and the charity are thrilled to be part of the new development and is a great example of how public and third sector organisations can work together for the best outcome, using each other's strengths to provide a service.”
The successful application for funding was made jointly by NSFT and NHS clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
Clive Rennie is the Assistant Director of Integrated Commissioning for Mental Health and Learning Disabilities with the Norfolk CCGs and Norfolk County Council.
He said: “This is great news for Norfolk with over 500 women and their families being provided with specialist community perinatal support per year. The service will link with many other services such as obstetrics, midwifery, health visiting and children's centres to ensure there is a joined-up service.
“The joint working on the national bid for this service is an excellent example of partnership working across the system.”
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