The Maternal Mental Health Alliance’s (MMHA) Everyone’s Business campaign welcomes publication of the Scottish Government’s perinatal mental health delivery plan for 2020/21. We commend the level of ambition, and specifically the ongoing commitment to strengthen and improve third sector services. These services have proven to be a lifeline for women and families, particularly during lock down.
However, while the aspiration is clear, the plan lacks detail on the intended level of specialism in each health board area. This is disappointing given the forthcoming MMHA maps show clearly that levels of specialist perinatal provision still falls short in most parts of the country.
Our maps show just how patchy the current provision of specialist perinatal mental health services is. Women and their families still face a tragic postcode lottery. Despite the £52 million for perinatal mental health services is Scotland, many areas still have no specialist perinatal mental health services meeting national standards.
We have particular concerns that women in Scotland with the most severe difficulties still do not have equitable access to local specialist care when compared with women in England and Wales. To prevent Scotland from lagging behind the rest of the UK, the Scottish Government must now ensure the committed £52m is spent in the most effective and transformative ways by health boards, taking into account both access and quality of provision.
The Plan must deliver a sustained and significant increase in the number of specialist community PIMH teams offering well-integrated support for the mothers, and for the mother-infant relationship.
In December 2019, MBRRACE-UK published their latest Confidential Enquiry into Maternal Death. Once again, the statistics make for sobering reading. Maternal suicide is still the leading cause of direct deaths occurring within a year after the end of pregnancy. Lack of local, specialist support means that problems are not being identified early, often leading to tragic consequences. In order to save precious lives, we must urgently address the gaps in perinatal mental health care.
The MMHA Everyone’s Business campaign looks forward to working closely with the Government to ensure the plan delivers sustainable, specialist services across the country to unnecessary suffering for women and their families and escalating costs to public services.