The perinatal mental health service at South West London and St George’s Mental NHS Trust has been praised by Richmond MP Sarah Olney.
Olney commended the trust for its work supporting new mothers who struggle with their mental health, especially throughout the pandemic.
Her comments followed a meeting with Akvinder Bola-Emerson, the clinical service lead for the Trust’s perinatal mental health service on 11 October.
During a Backbench Business Committee debate on ‘Giving Every Baby the Best Start in Life’ on 9 November, Olney said: “I was extremely pleased to hear about the work the trust is doing in successfully supporting new mothers who struggle with their mental health, and particularly that it was able to maintain its services during the lockdown and after.
“Akvinder Bola-Emerson, the clinical services lead for perinatal psychiatry, stressed in particular the need for peer support but also the importance of health visitors, whom she described as the “eyes and ears” of perinatal mental health services.”
The perinatal mental health service is a specialist mental health service for people who are planning a pregnancy, are pregnant or have a baby up to 12 months old.
The team is made up of different professionals including psychiatrists, mental health nurses, psychologists and allied health professionals.
Bola-Emerson said: “Up to 20% of new or expectant mothers experience mental ill-health during pregnancy or after birth and therefore ensuring they receive the right support is so important.
“If left untreated, mental health issues can have significant and long-lasting effects on the woman, the child and the wider family.”
Olney expressed that her visit showed her the need for better provision for new and expectant fathers, as one in 10 fathers are affected by perinatal mental health problems.
She added: “Currently only mothers can be formally diagnosed with a perinatal mental health problem.
“Springfield provides services for fathers, but it is currently able to identify mental health issues in fathers only when they accompany a mother who is attending the hospital for perinatal mental health issues.”
The perinatal mental health service serves the London boroughs of Wandsworth, Merton, Sutton, Kingston and Richmond and consists of a multidisciplinary team of clinicians with specialist training and expertise working in the community to address complex mental health needs of women in the perinatal period.
The service accepts referrals from health and social care professionals.
In March, the government released policy paper overview of 6 areas for action to improve the health outcomes of all babies in England.
You can read it here.