NHS England’s National Mental Health Director paid a special visit to the Cheshire and Merseyside Specialist Perinatal Service last week, to hear how the service is making a difference to the lives of women and their families across the region.
Claire Murdoch visited Hollins Park Hospital in Warrington on Friday 29 June to meet the team behind the service, which launched last year and is delivered by three local NHS trusts working in partnership – Cheshire and Wirral Partnership, Mersey Care and North West Boroughs Healthcare.
During pregnancy and in first the year after birth, women can be affected by a range of mental health problems, including anxiety, depression and postnatal psychosis. These are known as perinatal mental illnesses.
The Cheshire and Merseyside Specialist Perinatal Service provides support for women with complex or severe mental illnesses during the perinatal period.
Claire’s visit came following the recent news that the service had been successful in its bid for additional funding from NHS England to build on existing support. The funding was awarded through a £365million national scheme aiming to ensure that women in every part of the country have access to perinatal mental health services by April 2019.
As well as a presentation from the Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Care Partnership outlining how the three trusts are working collaboratively to deliver perinatal services across the two counties through the partnership’s mental health programme, Claire heard from the local teams about the support provided and their journey so far.
She also heard powerful presentations from two local woman who has accessed vital support from the service, and had the chance to chat to other women who had accessed the service more informally at the end of the event.
Claire said “Mental ill health doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone at any time and it disrupts life not just for mums but the whole family, which is why NHS England is absolutely committed to driving forward improvements in care and ensuring this important area of mental health continues to get the attention it deserves.
“Women with lived experience can play a pivotal role when it comes to shaping the services for others so it was great to hear first-hand from women who have accessed the service and hear how it is providing vital support and making a difference to people’s lives across Cheshire and Merseyside.”
Service user Lee-ann, who shared her story at the event, said “When I fell pregnant for the second time at the age of 39 after a number of miscarriages and failed IVF treatment, my initial feelings of shock and elation were soon replaced by extreme anxiety. After breaking down in my GP’s office one day, he referred me to the Specialist Perinatal Service.”
“I was amazed by how quickly I was seen – my care package kicked in immediately and within two weeks I was attending weekly appointments with my psychologist Ruth, who has been absolutely amazing.”
“The impact the service has had – not just on me but my whole family – is hard to put into words.”
Helen Bellairs, Chairman at North West Boroughs Healthcare said “We were delighted to welcome Claire on Friday and showcase some of the fantastic work the Cheshire and Merseyside Specialist Perinatal Service is doing to support women experiencing mental health problems during the perinatal period and their families.
“The additional funding from NHS England will enable us to enhance this support and continue to provide a high-quality, specialist perinatal mental health service for women across Cheshire and Merseyside.”
Sheena Cumiskey, Cheshire and Wirral Partnership Chief Executive and Senior Reporting Officer of the Mental Health Programme for Cheshire and Merseyside Health and Social Care Partnership said “I was delighted to attend this fantastic event at Hollins Park Hospital and it was my pleasure to provide an overview of the mental health programme board’s contribution to this service. It is very pleasing to see the service continue to go from strength to strength in its aim to provide excellent specialist perinatal mental health support for women in the Cheshire and Merseyside area.”
Dr Mark Barsoum, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist at Mersey Care said “The perinatal period is the most critical time for a woman’s mental health. We are delighted that we now, following NHS England’s investment, can offer a gold standard, evidence-based service for all the women and families of Merseyside”.