First look at new £4m mother and baby mental health unit in Norwich
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019
New mothers and heavily pregnant women with serious mental health problems will soon be able to receive help without being separated from their babies, as a new £4m unit in Norwich is about to open.
The Kingfisher Unit, at Hellesdon Hospital, is due to open on January 28 and an open day was held on Tuesday as the final preparations took place.
The eight-bed unit, which combines traditional psychiatric inpatient care with nursery facilities, will cover Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire and was one of just four launched by NHS England in 2017.
Dr Zeyn Green-Thompson, consultant perinatal psychiatrist, said mothers with mental ill health often felt guilty and reluctant to leave their child for treatment.
He said: 'They feel that they are not going to be able to care for their child in the way they want to, that they don't bond with that child, and they don't fulfil the role society expects of them.'
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But that the new unit meant this did not have to happen, as mothers and babies were admitted together.
Dr Green-Thompson added: 'We also know children can suffer later in life, so what we want to do here is take that away. This is where it all begins.'
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The Kingfisher Unit, run by Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) will care for mothers with mental health illnesses such as postnatal depression, severe anxiety, as well as postpartum psychosis - a serious mental health condition which can occur in recently delivered mothers which causes hallucinations and delusions and can severely disrupt perception, thinking, emotions and behaviour.
Previously mothers had to go to Birmingham, Chelmsford, or even further afield for this kind of treatment - and even then it was not guaranteed a bed would be available. And it is feared this could have previously put women off speaking about issues they were experiencing.
Naomi Farrow, 34, founded the charity Get Me Out The Four Walls in 2016, after the birth of her twin daughters, Erin and Tess, now four, left her feeling isolated. Now the Cawston mother-of-three, who also has daughter Fern, now aged seven, will be a peer support worker at the new unit.
She said: 'I'm really excited, I think it's genuinely going to be life changing for mums who live in Norfolk.'
Professor Wendy Burn, president of the Royal college of Psychiatrists, also visited the unit.
Dr Green-Thompson added: 'The visit of the president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists underlines that this is important to all of psychiatry and simply a piece of the puzzle of how to provide the best pathways of care in mental and physical health to all.
'Recent high-profile cases of well-known personalities suffering from mental ill health during or after pregnancy remind us that these trials can beset any of us and indeed should be accorded the same regard and address as any factor rendering a pregnancy at higher risk, such as diabetes or hypertension.
'Whilst an MBU may seem to provide the tip of the pyramid in terms of psychiatric care from a specialist point of view in providing the inpatient element, it can only be successful as part of a seamless system of care.'