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£4m funding success for vital Mother and Baby Unit

​Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has been awarded £4m in national funding to develop a specialist inpatient unit for new mothers with serious mental health problems.

The capital funding, which has come from the Department of Health, comes in addition to the previously won £2.8m in revenue funding which NSFT will receive annually to deliver the new service.

The additional money will be spent on renovating Kingfisher House, at Hellesdon Hospital, in Norwich, to turn it into an eight-bed Mother and Baby Unit (MBU) for the region.

Due to open in early 2019, the unit will ensure mums and their babies can stay together while the mother receives care for conditions such as severe postnatal depression, serious anxiety disorders and postpartum psychosis, which causes hallucinations and can severely disrupt perception and behaviour. It will also accept women in late pregnancy who require acute psychiatric inpatient care.

The bid for additional capital funding was led by NSFT, in partnership with Norfolk and Waveney’s five clinical commissioning groups and working in collaboration with Norfolk and Waveney STP. The partnership was informed it had been selected to open a unit in March, with the capital funding award made earlier this month.

Julie Cave, Director of Finance and Deputy Chief Executive from NSFT, said: “We are really pleased to receive this national funding, which will help us ensure mothers and their new babies can get the best possible care closer to home. It is a significant investment which shows that NHS England has real confidence in our plans.

“The MBU will provide vital and potentially life-changing care to new mothers with serious mental health problems, and will mean they can receive the psychiatric support they need without having to travel elsewhere.”

The unit will be one of just four across the country commissioned by NHS England as part of its investment into improving access to specialist treatment for new mothers in regional areas with the most limited inpatient services. It will take referrals from across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, as well as other parts of the country.

GPs and health visitors, as well as mental health staff, will be able to make the referrals to the unit, which will be staffed by perinatal psychiatrists, a psychologist, parent-infant therapist, specialist mental health nurses, nursery nurses, occupational therapists and social worker.

A range of therapeutic services will be available including medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy, along with help with bonding and attachment. Trained peer support workers – people who have personal experience of perinatal mental ill health – will also offer support and practical help.

Clive Rennie, Assistant Director Integrated Commissioning (Mental Health and Learning Disabilities) with Norfolk’s CCGs, said: “This is a major development for healthcare provision in Norfolk and in the eastern region.

“Following extensive work undertaken by staff at NSFT to gain this additional funding, women with severe mental health issues and their babies will be able to be treated in a local setting close to their families.”

The new unit will complement NSFT’s new Community Perinatal Mental Health Service, which began seeing cases in April and will be fully operational by September. The service cares for pregnant women and new mothers with serious mental health difficulties, as well as providing support for the rest of the family.

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