First dedicated mental health unit for mothers and babies to open in the region - one of just four new units in the country
- Credit: NSFT
New mothers with serious mental health problems will be able to receive specialist inpatient help closer to home as the region's first dedicated mother and baby unit is set to open.
The eight-bed unit - which will ensure mothers and their newborns can stay together while the mother is receiving acute psychiatric care - will be based at Hellesdon Hospital, Norwich.
Due to open in 2018, it will take referrals from across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, as well as other parts of the country.
The unit, which will be opened by Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), will cost around £3m to develop and is one of just four in the country commissioned by NHS England (NHSE) as part of their investment into improving access to specialist treatment for new mothers. They have targeted regional areas with the most limited inpatient services.
It will care for mothers with mental health illnesses such as postnatal depression, severe anxiety, as well as postpartum psychosis.
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GPs and health visitors, as well as mental health staff, will make the referrals to the unit, which will be staffed by a perinatal psychiatrist, specialist mental health nurses, nursery nurses, occupational therapist and social worker.
A range of therapeutic services will be available including medication, cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy, along with help with attachment. Trained peer support workers – people who have personal experience of perinatal mental ill health – will also offer support and practical help.
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Andy Goff, NSFT's children, families and young people's services locality manager, said the bid for funding for the unit was submitted by NSFT and supported by local clinical commissioning groups (CCGs).
He said: 'We also worked closely with the Norfolk and Norwich Universities Hospitals NHS Trust (NNUH) and the support group Get Me Out These Four Walls, to develop our model which will ensure both mothers and babies receive responsive and effective care in a family-friendly unit which has been designed to meet the highest standards. And the staff there will carry out daily assessments to make sure the emotional and physical needs of mothers and their babies are safely met.'
NSFT's Chief Executive Michael Scott said: 'We are absolutely delighted that our bid to create a specialist mother and baby unit for our region has been successful. This is a vital and potentially life-changing service that for the first time we will be able to offer local families from across the region. 'We are extremely proud that NHSE has such confidence in our model of care and that we can now continue to work with local service users and staff to add the finishing touches to the development of the new service.'
The news of the new unit has been welcomed by Jessica Bannister from Norwich. She received mental health crisis treatment with NSFT when she suffered postpartum psychosis following the birth of her son, Albert, three years ago, but then had to travel to Hackney, in London, for specialist inpatient treatment as soon as it was safe to move them.
'The immediate care that I received from NSFT when I went into crisis was literally life-saving, offering an urgent short-term safe haven, and for that I will always be grateful. But there were no local facilities to treat my condition in a specialised environment,' said author and playwright, Jessica.
'The Hackney unit was a godsend for us – even with the distance involved, but if someone becomes ill, it's much better if they don't have to travel hundreds of miles for treatment as it's essential that you're near your family and friends so you can keep some kind of life going outside of the illness.
'These units are incredible places – the humanity, love and support you receive is phenomenal. The dedication of the staff to your recovery and wellness, along with the love they give to your child, is fantastic.'
Jessica returned home when Albert was around four months old, and continued to receive support from NSFT's community mental health team. Now fully recovered, the family recently welcomed their new arrival, daughter Roxie, to the family on 25 January.
Keen to help raise awareness of mental ill health among other new mums and mums-to-be, Jessica has written a drama documentary for BBC Radio 4 called Mama Courage, due to be aired on Friday 12 May at 2.15pm, then available on the BBC Radio 4 iPlayer.
Her full story is also featured in NSFT's Insight magazine (Spring Summer 2017 edition) which will be available on the Trust's website from the end of May at www.nsft.uk/Insight
As many as one in five women experience mental ill health during pregnancy or in the 12 months following, incorporating a wide range of conditions including postnatal depression, anxiety, and postpartum psychosis
• Suicide is the second leading cause of maternal death after cardio vascular disease
• Over £3.65m has been allocated by NHSE to perinatal mental health services over the next five years, so that, by 2021 30,000 more women each should be able to access care and treatment
• Postpartum psychosis affects around two in every 1,000 new mothers
• Women are more likely (but not only) to develop the illness if they:
- Have had postpartum psychosis before
- Already have a serious mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder or schizophrenia
- Have a relative who has experienced psychosis (even if the woman herself has no mental illness)
- For further information on postpartum psychosis go to the Action on Postpartum Psychosis website at www.app-network.org
• Mental Health Awareness Week runs from May 8 - 14, for more information visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week