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New maternal mental health service set to launch in Norfolk & Waveney

Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) has been awarded £800,000 in national funding to develop a maternal mental health service (MMHS) to care for women who have experienced traumatic births or bereavement.

The money will be used over the next two years to launch and test the pilot service, which will be evaluated alongside other trials taking place nationally before MMHSs are introduced across the country from 2023/24.

In Norfolk and Waveney, the service will support women:

  • who have experienced birth trauma or have tokophobia (a significant fear of childbirth)
  • who have experienced bereavement (repeated miscarriage, still birth or neonatal death)
  • who have had a baby removed at birth by social services.

It will see staff from NSFT work alongside specialist midwives at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and James Paget Hospital to provide trauma-focused therapy, as well as attachment therapy for those who have had children removed.

Resources will also be produced to support women with tokophobia to ensure consistency of care, while the team will also work closely with other local psychological services.

The service has been designed alongside service users and will care for between 150 and 250 women a year. It will also complement the range of specialist services which NSFT already provides for pregnant women and new mums, including the Community Perinatal Mental Health Service and Kingfisher Mother and Baby Unit, which opened in 2019.

Melanie White, Consultant Clinical Psychologist with NSFT, said: "We are delighted that Norfolk and Waveney has been chosen as one of the sites which will develop and test a maternal mental health service before they are rolled out nationally as part of the NHS's Long Term Plan.

"The service will bring together maternity, reproductive health and psychological therapy, and will see NSFT clinicians work closely with midwifery colleagues from our three acute hospitals to ensure women receive psychological interventions at the right time and a seamless service from the NHS.

"We have been working with women who have experienced birth trauma or loss as we have been developing the service, and will continue to liaise with them over the coming months as we gear up to launch in April.

"We hope that the service will make a really positive difference to these women by ensuring they can access consistent, high quality care which meets their individual needs."

Emma Hardwick, Divisional Midwifery Director at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, said: "We are absolutely delighted to be part of the collaboration to be able to offer and deliver this innovative service consistently for women across Norfolk and Waveney."

Kirsty Cater, Head of Midwifery and Gynaecology Services at the James Paget University Hospital, said: "We are pleased this new funding will mean additional support for those using maternity services across Norfolk and Waveney. We also welcome the assistance this will give our midwives in enhancing the service we provide. We are constantly working to try to improve care and this is another important step to support those who experience birth trauma or loss."

Amanda Price-Davey, Head of Midwifery at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn, said: "We are delighted to be part of the development of this new service that supports the needs of pregnant people at their most vulnerable time. We have identified a gap in current services and this new funding will ensure that all those who have mental health challenges receive the support they need at this significant time in their lives."