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Vital new service takes shape

​A new perinatal service which will provide vulnerable women in Norfolk and Waveney with targeted help for complex mental health problems is on course to launch early in the new year.

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) and Norfolk’s clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) were awarded nearly £2.5m by NHS England to work with partners to develop the specialist community service. It will care for pregnant women and new mothers with serious mental health difficulties, as well as providing support for the rest of the family and training for other healthcare professionals.

Work has now started to recruit consultant psychiatrists to lead the service, as well as mental health nurses, a psychologist, occupational therapist, social worker, nursery nurses and administrators, who will complete the 14-strong team. It is hoped all posts will be filled by March.

Andy Goff, Improvement and Development Manager with NSFT, said: “Its great news that there will now be a specific service caring for women and their babies, as it is such a specialist area of work.

“Our aim will be to receive referrals at an early stage in pregnancy, as evidence shows that existing mental health problems can get worse just before or after birth. The same applies for new mothers suffering with post-natal depression – we want to reach them as quickly as possible so that they can get the specialist help they need.

“The service will be aligned with our Youth and Parent and Infant Mental Health Services so that families receive continuity of care. It will complement the services we already offer while providing an additional important source of support for these women.

“We are now working hard to recruit new staff while also raising awareness of the service so that people know where to turn when they need help. We have also been working closely with Nottinghamshire Healthcare Trust, which already runs a perinatal service, to plan the training our staff will receive so that we can make sure they are delivering the best possible care to this vulnerable group.”

The service, which has received funding for the next three years, will cater for people with conditions such as severe post-natal depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis. It will also offer pre-conception advice for woman on medication for their mental health or with a known mental illness wishing to conceive.

It will aim to reach women as quickly as possible, providing timely support which is specially-tailored to meet each patient’s individual needs. This could include talking therapies and medication, where appropriate, as well as support engaging with antenatal care and health visitors.

Clive Rennie, Chair of the Perinatal Steering Group which developed the proposal, said: “The partnership working to develop this proposal was exceptional. This specialist service will benefit significant numbers of women, their children and their families across Norfolk and Waveney areas. NSFT will provide the core element of the service and are currently recruiting the specialist staff required. This is an exciting and fantastic development for Norfolk.”

Simon Stevens, NHS England Chief Executive said: “For most parents, having a baby is one of the happiest times of your life. But for tens of thousands of new mums, this experience is sadly overshadowed by severe pregnancy-related mental health problems. Now the NHS is taking concrete action to get these mothers and families the specialist mental health support they need.”

The service will be delivered 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.  

It has been commissioned by Norfolk and Waveney’s five clinical commissioning groups and developed in partnership with Get Me Out The Four Walls, which is a support group set up to help people suffering from post-natal depression.

“This new service is very much needed and has been for a long time. It will be a massive game changer for mothers, because now they will receive specific treatment rather than being generalised,” said Naomi Farrow, who set up the group.

“For me this is crucial and is a huge step forward for mums in Norfolk and Waveney. Its brilliant that the service will soon be helping women and their families.”